(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Children's Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "God's Playthings"

k^ 



AMERICAN Foundation 
PorTheBlindinc. 



C-. 



Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 

in 2010 witii funding from 

Lyrasis IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 



http://www.archive.org/details/godsplaythingsOOmarj 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 



BY 



MARJORIE BOWEN 

AUTHOR OF "the VIPER OF MILAN," "THE GLEN O' WEEPING,' 
"l WILL MAINTAIN," ETC. 



NEW YORK 
E. P. BUTTON AND COMPANY 

31 WEST TWENTY-THIRD STREET 
1913 



COp\ 



PRIKTED BT 

WltLTAM OLOITKS AND SONS, LIMrTm 

LONDON AND BKCCLES 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

I. The King's Son 1 

II. A Biography 23 

III. A Poor Spanish Lodging 35 

IV. Defeat 59 

V. Twilight 80 

VI. The Camp outside Namcr 93 

VII. The Polandee 113 

VIII. The Extraordinary Story of Grace Endicott . 135 

IX. The Cup of Chicory Water 153 

X. The Burning of the Vanities .... 180 

XI. A Woman of the People 202 

XII. The Aristocrat 225 

XIII. The Betrothed oi Pedko el Justicak . . . 249 

XIV. The Macedonian Groom 260 

XV. The Prisoner 273 

XVI. The Yellow Intaglio 301 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 



THE KING'S SON 

" This letter has given rise to various conjeotures," — Dalrymple'a 
Memoirs, 

From Ringwood, the 9th of July, 1685. 

My Lord, 

Having had some proof of your kindness 
when I was last at Whitehall, makes me hope now 
that you will not refuse interceding for me with 
the King, being I know, though too late, how I 
have been misled ; were I not clearly convinced 
of that, I would rather die a thousand deaths than 
say what I do. I writ yesterday to the King, and 
the chief business of my letter was to desire to 
speak to him, /or I have that to say to him tJiat I 
am sure will set him at quiet for ever. I am sure 
the whole study of my hfe shall hereafter be how 
to serve him ; and / am sure that which I can do 
is worth more than taking my life away ; and I am 
confident, if I may be so happy to speak to him, 
he will himself be convinced of it, being I can give 
him such infallible froof of my truth to him that, 
though I would alter, it would not be in my power to 
do it. This which I have now said, I hope will 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

be enough to encourage your lordship to show me 
your favour, which I do earnestly desire of you 
and hope that you have so much generosity as 
not to refuse it. I hope, my lord, and I make no 
doubt of it, that you will not have cause to repent 
having saved my life, which I am sure you can do 
a great deal in if you please ; being it obliges me 
to be entirely yours, which I shall ever be, as long 
as I have life. 

Monmouth. 

For the Earl of Rochester, Lord High Treasurer 
of England. 

Knowing that I had been involved in the 
miserable final adventure of that unhappy Prince, 
James Scot, Duke of Monmouth, and even been 
with him in that last Council in Bridgewater, my 
lord Eochester showed me this letter with a kind 
of languid malice, and even had the indecency to 
smile at it and address to me a remark shghting 
to the unfortunate writer of that desperate 
appeal. 

" For," said he, " had Monmouth a secret to 
reveal, though ever so base a one, he had disclosed 
it to save his life — and since he disclosed nothing 
'tis proof plain this was but a fool's trick to catch 
mercy." 

He said no more, but I was minded to tell 
what I knew that I might do justice to the memory 
of one wronged and wretched ; yet the impulse 
was but passing, for I knew that the secret his 

2 



THE KING'S SON 

dead Grace had never discovered was one which 
for pity's sake I must be silent on ; and well I 
was aware also that what I could say would awaken 
no understanding in the cold heart of Lawrence 
Hyde. My Lord's Grace of Monmouth has been 
dead ten years, and in the potent and huge events 
that have changed Europe since, he has been 
forgotten by all but some of those poor souls in 
the West who called him King. But I, who joined 
fortunes with him in his reckless enterprise, hold 
often in my thoughts him whose fate is now reckoned 
but a trifle in the history of nations. Both in the 
exile that followed Sedgemoor and the years in 
England under His present Protestant Majesty 
have I considered silently the tragic mystery of 
this young man whose life was useless pleasure 
and whose death was bitter anguish. 

It hath a curious sound that I, once penman 
to his Grace, should now be secretary to the Earl 
of Rochester ; I gave my master this reflection, 
and he laughed in his indolent fashion and answered 
that ten years had accomplished the work of a 
hundred, and that the rebellion in the West was 
ancient history. Yet when he had left me to 
my work I copied this same letter (written in a 
quick hand with the agony of the author showing 
in that forceful entreaty to one who had never 
been his friend), and I brought the copy home 
with me and now must write under it the explana- 
tion like the key to a cipher. Not to show any, 
but rather to bury or destroy ; not to betray the 
secret of the dead, but to ease mine own heart of 

3 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

one scene which has haunted me these long ten 
years. 

It hath a turn of folly to write what will never 
be read, but the impulse driving me is stronger 
than reason, and so I make confession of what I 
know while holding my faith inviolate. 

At the time of the capture of my lord in '85, 
the indecent cruelty of the then King in seeing 
one whom he had resolved to be bitterly avenged 
on, and in commanding to be published an account 
of those agonies he should have been most sedulous 
to veil, w^as much commented upon, and first gave 
his people the impression of that ill- judging severity 
of character and stern harshness of temper they 
soon found unendurably galling. 

It was well known too at that time, that my 
lord had obtained that interview with the King 
by reason of the desperate letter he wrote, of the 
same trend as the epistle he sent to my lord 
Rochester, declaring he had somewhat of such 
importance to reveal that it should put the King's 
mind at rest for ever concerning him. Various 
were the rumours abroad concerning this secret 
and what it might be, and as it was known from 
the King's lips that his Grace had revealed nothing, 
many supposed, as my lord Rochester, that it was 
but a feint to obtain an audience of his Majesty ; 
yet how any could read those letters and not see 
they were inspired by the bitter truth, I know 
not. Some believed that it was that his Grace 
had been urged to his fatal undertaking by His 
present Majesty, then Stadtholder of the United 

4 



THE KING'S SON 

Provinces, and that he had about him letters from 
that Prince's favourite, Monsieur Bentinck. 

Yet all evidence was against this, and the Duke 
himself appealed to the Stadtholder to bear witness 
that he had no designs against England when he 
left The Hague, but intended for Hungary (for 
which purpose, indeed, the Prince equipped him) 
and had since been misled by the restless spirit of 
the Earl of Argyll and other malcontents whom 
he met, to his undoing, in Brussels. 

More believed that the disclosure related to 
that subtle designing minister, the Earl of Sunder- 
land, who was deep in the councils of the King's 
enemies, yet held his Majesty in such a fascination 
that no breath against him was credited, even at 
the last, when he ruined the King easily with a 
graceful dexterity that deceived even Monsieur 
Barillon, who is esteemed for his astuteness. 

Yet what reason had my lord Sunderland, 
intent on far larger schemes, to lure my lord 
Monmouth into a disastrous expedition, and what 
object had his Grace in keeping a final silence 
about such treachery ? 

Nor would the revelation of the falsehood of 
his Majesty's minister or the discovery of the dis- 
simulation of his Majesty's nephew be such a secret 
as his Grace indicated in his letter — " for I have 
that to say to him which I am sure will set him at 
quiet for ever " — whereas either of these com- 
munications would rather have set King and 
Kingdom at great trouble and dis-ease. 

No one came near the truth in their guesses, 
5 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

and after a while no one troubled, and truly it 
is an empty matter now ; still, one that containeth 
a centre of such tragic interest that for me the 
wonder and pity of it never dieth. 

To bring myself back to the events of that 
fatal year (the recollection groweth as I write), 
it shall here be noted that I was witness of the 
great and bitter reluctance of my lord to lead 
this rebellion. 

He was brave in his spirit, but of an exceeding 
modesty and softness in his temper, of a sweet 
disposition, averse to offend, fearful of hardship, 
a passionate lover of life, generously weak to the 
importunities of others. 

Yet for a great while he withstood them, 
avoided Argyll, shut his doors to Lord Grey and 
Ferguson and was all for retirement with the lady 
whom he truly loved, Harriet Wentworth. 

But from Love for whom he would put by these 
temptations came the goad to urge him into the 
arms of Ambition, and she, who in her pride 
would see him set on a throne, joined her entreaties 
to the arguments of the men who needed a King's 
son for their leader, and pawned the very jewels 
in her ears to buy him arms. And he was pre- 
vailed upon to undertake this sad and bitter 
voyage with but a few adventurers whose much 
enthusiasm must take the place of money and 
wits, for of these last they had neither. At first 
his Grace's heart utterly misgave him and he was 
more despondent than any man had ever known 
him, being indeed in a black and bitter mood, 

6 



THE KING'S SON 

reluctant to speak on anything but Brussels and 
my lady waiting there. 

This brought him into some discredit with his 
followers, but Ferguson had spirit enough to inspire 
the ignorant, and Lord Grey, who, though a man 
dishonoured in private and public life, was of a 
quick moving wit and an affable carriage, ani- 
mated the little company of us, not above a hundred, 
who had joined together on this doleful enterprise. 

But when we had landed on the rocky shores 
of Lyme Eegis, it was his Grace whose mood 
became cheerful, for his ready sensibility was 
moved by the extraordinary and deep welcome 
these people of the West gave us, for, whereas 
we who were at first, as I have said, but a hundred, 
in a few days were six thousand, all hot on an 
encounter and confident ; truly it was marvellous 
to see how these people loved his Grace and how 
he was at the very height of joyous exaltation in 
this fair successful opening. 

Taunton saw a day of triumph when his Grace 
was proclaimed King in the market-place by a 
mad speech of Ferguson in which wild and horrible 
crimes were laid to the charge of James Stewart, 
and I think Monmouth saw himself King indeed, 
at Whitehall, so gracious and gay was his bearing. 

But my lord Grey looked cynically, for not a 
single person of any consideration had joined us, 
and, while the gentry held back, ill-aimed and 
untrained peasants were of no use to us. Yet had 
his Grace done better to trust their fanatical 
valour and march on for Bristol and so take that 

7 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

wealthy town, instead of spending his time en- 
deavouring to train his men — God knows he was 
no general, though a brave soldier in his services 
in the Low Countries ! 

While he dalHed, my lord Beaufort was raising 
the trained bands, and my lord Feversham came 
down from London with some of the King's troops. 
Then came that attempt of my lord Grey on Brid- 
port when he forsook his men and fled ; though 
this was proved cowardice, his Grace was too soft 
to even reprimand him. 

In miserable searching for food, in vain strag- 
gling marches, in hesitations, in fatal delays the 
time passed ; his Grace might have had Bristol, 
a place abounding in his own friends ; yet, hearing 
that the Duke of Beaufort had threatened to fire 
it rather than open the gates, he turned towards 
Bath, saying he could not endure to bring disaster 
on so fair a city. 

This faint-hearted gentleness was not fitted for 
the position he had assumed ; at Bath they killed 
his herald and returned a fierce defiance. So we 
fell back on Frome in disorder ; and my lord saw 
his visions melting, his dream of Kingship vanish, 
for in the same day he received three pieces of 
news : that the three Dutch regiments had landed 
at Gravesend, that my lord Argyll was a prisoner, 
and that my lord Feversham was marching upon 
him with three thousand men and thirty pieces 
of cannon. 

And now the full utter madness of what he had 
undertaken was apparent ; we had neither cannon 

8 



THE KING'S SON 

nor arms, scarcely powder ; and he who had seen 
the fine armies of Holland and France could not 
but see the hopeless position he held with a force 
of these poor peasants, the cavalry mounted on 
cart and plough horses, the foot but armed with 
scythes and pruning-knives. Despair and dismay 
gained an audience of his mind ; he fell suddenly 
into agonies of fear and remorse for what he must 
bring on these followers of his ; from every one 
who came near him he asked advice, and the 
anguish of his spirit was visible in his altered 
countenance. He called councils in which nothing 
was resolved but the desperate state they were 
in, and nothing talked of but the folly that had 
put them there ; his Grace passionately blaming 
Ferguson and Argyll for their evil urgings. Then 
it was resolved to retreat on Bridgewater to be 
nearer the sea ; on this march some few left his 
Grace, but most stayed in a dogged love, and 
this faith touched his tender heart as much as 
his own danger, and wrought such a passion of 
weak agony in him it was piteous to see the 
expression of it in his face. 

At Bridgewater he viewed the enemy through 
his glasses from the top of the church tower ; 
there and then, I think, he knew that he gazed 
on a country he must soon for ever leave. 

Alas ! alas ! In my nostrils is still the scent 
of that July afternoon, the perfume from the 
slumbrous grasses, the scent of the peaceful 
flowers. . . . 

That day we had a very splendid sunset; 
9 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

all the west was gold and violet and the whole 
sky clear of clouds, yet over the morass below the 
castle the marsh fog lay cold and thick, for lately 
it had rained heavily and the Parret had over- 
flowed its banks, so the whole earth was wet — 
very clearly I recall all details of that day. 

Here I come to that picture that is for ever 
with me — the last Council of my lord. Had I the 
skill of some of those Hollanders whom I have 
seen abroad, who can limn a scene just to the Ufe, 
I could give this scene on canvas with every colour 
exact. 

It was a room in the Castle, not large, looking 
on to the garden ; through the open window 
showed that emblazoned sunset, and a rose and 
vine leaf entwined against the mullions. 

The panelHng of the chamber was darkened 
and polished, above the mantelpiece was a painting 
of a stone vase of striped and gaudy tulips, very 
like, and there were logs ready on the hearth, for 
the evenings were chilly. On the floor was a 
little carpet of Persia, and in the centre a table 
with stools set about it, all of a heavy, rather 
ancient design. A little brass clock with a mighty 
pendulum stood against the wall on a bracket ; 
on the table were two branched candlesticks, 
clumsy and shining. 

There were gathered the rebel officers, talking 
themselves into a boastful confidence ; the only 
man of quality among them, my lord Grey, stood 
a Httle apart beside the open window — and smiled ; 
he was a curious man, not well-favoured, but one 

10 



THE KING'S SON 

whom it was pleasant to look upon, tall and dark, 
with that little fault in the eyes that casteth them 
crooked. My office was an idle one, for there was 
nothing to write, so I watched the others and felt 
chilled at the heart for the hopelessness of it all. 

When the dusk gathered, my lord Grey drew 
the curtains across the rising mists and lit the 
candles slowly. 

When the last flame rose up, Monmouth entered 
quietly : he ever had a light step. 

Marred as he then was by his inward misery, 
he was still the loveliest gentleman in England and 
of a winning beauty impossible to be realised by 
those who have not seen him ; he wore a riding 
coat of brown cloth and a black hat with a penache 
of white plumes, being more plainly dressed than 
ever he had been before, I think, in all his easy 
life. 

They all rose when he entered, but he motioned 
them to their seats again, and I saw that he had 
not the firmness to command his voice to speak. 
He took the place they had left for him, and Lord 
Grey, shading the candle flame from his eyes, 
stared at him with that crossed glance of his and 
that immovable expression of amusement on his 
lips. For a while they spoke together, to cover, 
as I took it, this dismal discomposure on the part 
of their leader. 

But presently he took off his hat impatiently, 
showing his long soft hair of that Enghsh-coloured 
brown and his eyes, of the tint of a chestnut, 
that usually shone with so bright a light, and 

U 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

leaning a little forward in his chair he broke into 
astonishing speech. 

" I cannot go on," he said. " I will not go 
on — there is nothing ahead but ruin." 

At these words that so stript the poor pretence 
of hope from their councils, these officers sat 
revealed as fearful and stricken men. They looked 
at Monmouth as one who would be the mouth- 
piece of their own terrors ; my lord Grey with- 
drew himself a little from them and went to stand 
by the mantelshelf, from there observing all. 

The red came into the Duke's face and he eyed 
them wildly. 

" What are we going on ? " he said. " We are 
not such fools as to think we can prevail now. . . . 
I saw Dumbarton's Scots yonder on Sedgemoor. 
... I know how they can fight . . . they were 
under me at Bothwell Brig. ..." He pressed his 
handkerchief to his lips and he was trembling 
like a sick maid. 

They saw in his eyes that he considered them, 
as the play saith, on " the edge of doom," and as 
he had given them leave for ignoble thoughts, so 
each took advantage of it and bethought him of 
his own sad condition. 

'' We have but a rabble," said one. " And 
there is yet a chance to get over seas " 

" I cannot fall into the hands of James Stewart," 
muttered Monmouth ; " for I have done that which 
cannot be forgiven." And there was such pusil- 
lanimous fear in his wretched look of shivered 
dread that it passed like a panic through all that 

12 



THE KING'S SON 

they too had done what could not be forgiven ; 
nor was James Stewart a merciful man. One 
voiced the general terror : 

*' We could get to the coast before any guessed 
we had left Bridgewater — in flight lies our only 
chance." 

Then my lord Grey made this speech. 

" There are six thousand people have left their 
homes to follow you — would you, my lord, abandon 
them to that fate ye cannot face yourself ? " 

Monmouth looked at him ; maybe he thought 
it strange that the man that had been a proved 
coward under fire should speak so intrepidly in the 
council, yet he was too unnerved for a retort or 
an answer. 

" Oh, you," added Lord Grey, with a flick of a 
scorn in his tone, " who took the title of a King, and 
are a King's son, cannot you make a more seemly 
show of it than this ? " 

"It is my life," said the Duke in a piteous 
agitation. " Five thousand pounds on my head 
... to die as Russell did ..." 

" You are a King's son," repeated Lord Grey. 

In a desperate passion his Grace answered him. 

" Why did you induce me to this folly ? It was 
you, that villain Ferguson and Argyll " 

" He has paid," said the other quickly. 

" As I must pay. . . . My God, was I not 
happy in Brabant ? You but wanted my name 
to gild your desperation " 

" We would have made you King," said Lord 
Grey, and he smiled a Httle. 

13 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

There fell a silence, and it seemed that the 
Duke would speak, but he said no words. 

" Come, gentlemen," spoke out my lord Grey. 
" The Council is over — you will have your orders 
before morning — all expedients are ineffectual ; 
now each, in his own way, must go forward to the 
end." He took up the candle to light them from 
the room, and they, being men of a little station, 
were overawed by his quality and went ; two of 
them deserted that night, and one betrayed us 
by firing a pistol to warn Lord Feversham of our 
approach and so got the King's pardon. God be 
merciful to the others ; I think they died unknown 
and brave. 

I, being trusted because there was a price on 
my head and I had borne the tortm-e in Scotland, 
was asked by Lord Grey to stay and help hearten 
his Grace. 

We endeavoured to reason him into going into 
Castle Field, where Ferguson preached to the 
miners and ploughmen ; he would not, but in a 
weak agony abused Wildman and Argyll as the 
engines of his torture, and he had the look on him 
we call " fey " ; I believed he was near his 
death. . . . 

So the night fell very misty and warm, and my 
lord would not He down, but sat in that little room 
strugghng with anguish. 

He had his George of diamonds on and often 
looked at it and spoke incoherently of how King 
Charles had given it him . . . surely my pity was 
more provoked than my scorn, for he was soft 

14 



THE KING'S SON 

and gentle in his ways and so had gained much 
love. 

That morning one had complained to him Lord 
Grey should be dishonoured for his behaviour 
without Bridport — and he had answered : "1 
will not affront my lord by any mention of his 
misfortune — " yet here was he sunk in utter 
misery while Lord Grey strove to rouse in him a 
manly and decent courage with which to be worthy 
of these poor brave souls who loved and followed 
him ; presently he came round to his old and first 
appeal. 

" Remember you are a King's son." 

It was near one in the morning by the little 
brass clock, and I sat wearily by the door that led 
to the bedchamber ; the Duke was at the table, 
and as my lord Grey spoke he looked up and 
began laughing. He laughed so long and reck- 
lessly that we were both dumb in a kind of horror, 
and when at last he came to a pause in his laughter 
there was silence. 

Now the Duke discovered some fortitude : he 
rose and helped himself to wine, which brought 
the fugitive blood back into his cheeks and he 
held himself with more dignity, though there was 
that wild look of unsettled wits in his wide-opened 
eyes. 

" My lord," he said, " and you, sir — bring the 

candles nearer and I will show you something " 

He put pack the admired locks that screened his 
brow and took from the pocket of his inner coat a 
leather book that he laid on the table before us. 

15 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" Wksit is this ? " asked my lord Grey. 

The Duke untied the covers in quiet and let 
fall on the pohshed wood all manner of odd and 
foolish papers, letters, complexion wash recipes, 
charms and notes of his journeyings in Holland. 

These he put aside and drew from a secret 
lining a silver case such as is used for a painting 
in little. 

It was my thought that it contained the picture 
of Lady Harriet, which we were to return to her 
if either Hved to do it, and I was sorry for this 
lady who had been so faithful in her love. 

From one to the other of us the Duke looked 
strangely ; his face was flushed now and beautiful 
as in former days when he was the loved one of 
that great brilliance at Whitehall, yet still he had 
the seal of death on him, and, worse than that, the 
horrible fear of it writ in every Hne of his comely 
countenance. 

" Please you, look here," he said ; he opened 
the locket and held it out in his palm. 

" What is this ? " he asked in a husk and torn 
voice. 

It was the Hkeness of a man, very fairly done, 
who wore a uniform and cravat of the time of the 
death of King Charles I. 

Lord Grey looked at it quickly. 

" It is your Grace," he said ; then, seeing the 
dress — " No," he added, and glanced swiftly at 
Monmouth — " who is it ? " 

"It is Colonel Sidney taken in his youth," I 
said, for I had known the man well in Kotterdam 

16 



THE KING^S SON 

when he was attached to the court of the late 
King Charles, then in exile there. And I gazed 
at the painting ... it was a marvellous fair 
face. 

While I looked my lord Duke had three letters 
out from the same secret corner of his book, and 
I saw that two were in the writing of Colonel 
Sidney and the third in a hand I did not know, 
the hand of an ill- educated woman. 

" Who is this ? " asked Lord Grey with an 
amazed look. " Surely Colonel Sidney was never 
any concern of your Grace ? " 

He stood with the picture in his hand and 
Monmouth looked up at him from the old worn and 
folded letters he was smoothing out. 

" It is Colonel Sidney," he said. 

" Well ? " asked Lord Grey intently. 

" He was my father," said Monmouth ; then 
he began laughing again, and it had the most 
doleful sound of anything I have ever heard. I 
could not grasp what had been said, but my lord 
Grey with his quick comprehension seemed in a 
moment to understand and value this truth. 

" Your father ! " he said softly, and added : 
" To think we never saw it ! " which was an 
extraordinary thing to say ; yet, on looking at 
the Hkeness in little and on the fair agonised face 
staring across the candlelight one might notice 
that they were in almost every detail the same, 
and methought I was a very fool never to have 
observed before how these two men were ahke, 
even to little manners and fashions of speech. 

17 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

And being that I saw the tragic pitifuhiess of 
it all, I could do no more than laugh dismally also. 

" See you these letters if you want proof," said 
Monmouth. 

" There is no need," answered my lord Grey. 
" The hkeness is enough." Then he repeated : 
" And we never saw it ! " 

" No," said his Grace half-fiercely ; " you 
never saw it — I was always the King's son to you 
— instead of that I am scarce a gentleman. . . . 
Now you know why I cannot go on. ... I am 
no Stewart, I have no royal blood. ..." 

Grey looked at him, turning over in his mind, 
I think, the aspects of this bewildering turn ; 
he gazed at Colonel Sidney's son with a curiosity 
almost cruel. 

I was thinking of the obscurity from which 
he had sprung, the mystery round his early years 
in Rotterdam, his sudden appearance in a blaze 
of glory at Whitehall when the King had made 
him Duke. . . . 

" Who did this ? " I asked. '' And who kept 
silence ? " 

" King Charles loved me as his son," he answered 
vaguely, '" and I loved him. ... I could not have 
told him — and I was ambitious. What would you 
have done ? " he cried. *' I did not know until I 
was fourteen." He pressed his hand to his breast. 

" But I will not die for it," he muttered. " Why 
should I die for it 1 " 

" Your death must become your life, not your 
birth," said Lord Grey. 

18 



THE KING'S SON 

" My death ! " shivered Monmouth. 

Lord Grey turned to face him ; thin and harsh- 
featm:ed as he was, he made the other's beauty a 
thing of nothing. 

" Why ? " he said commandingly. " You know 
that you must die — you know what will happen 
to-morrow and what you have to expect from 
James Stewart, and those honours that you have 
won in life will you not keep to grace your death ? " 

" I cannot die," answered Monmouth ; he rose 
and began walking about in a quick passion of 
protesting anguish : "I will not die." 

" That you cannot decide ; the manner only 
is in your power," said Lord Grey calmly, and I 
marvelled to think that he had been a coward in 
open field. 

*' I am not the King's son " his Grace cried 

out at him, and fell across a chair sick with un- 
availing love of life. 

Lord Grey took up a candle and turned to the 
door, looking at him the while. 

'' Will you give James Stewart this triumph ? " 
he asked. 

This seemed the one thing to brace Monmouth, 
for those two had always hated each other strongly ; 
James in the old days had feared my lord's power, 
been jealous that he was the elder son of the 
elder son, and Monmouth seemed to remember 
that ; yet a mean thought hurried on the heels 
of the manly reflection. 

" He would give me my life for this," he said 

v»Takly. " My life for this secret " 

19 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

*' Good night," said Lord Grey — a strange 
man — and left us. 

The Duke seemed not to know that he had gone 
or that I remained ; after a Httle he went into the 
bedchamber, but not to sleep, and all night I heard 
him weeping . . . such sick and bitter womanish 
sobs all through that long watch I kept. . . . 

Colonel Sidney's son ! 

Who were they who did this — and they who 
kept silence ? 

A curious commingling of motives, sordid and 
lovable, ambition, some Httle love, some touch 
of self-sacrifice. ... I felt compassion for King 
Charles, who had had no deeper feeling in all his 
spoilt Hfe than this affection for what was not his. . . . 

I put the wasting candles out and sat in the 
dark ; I lifted the curtain and saw the sun rise 
over Sedgemoor. 

Six thousand men to fight against hopeless odds 
to-morrow for him they deemed a King, the blood 
of Bourbon and Stewart, the heir of Tudor and 
Plantagenet. . . . 

And in my ears was the thick sobbing of a 
mere Englishman of a stock that scarce boasted 
gentihty, who could not face the end of his mas- 
querade nor fit the robe of greatness he had 
assumed. 

So here is the secret revealed at length to the 
dumb and innocent paper ; God knoweth it is, as 
Lawrence Hyde saith, a great while ago ; for the 
rest, the world knows how the Duke rode out to 

20 



THE KING'S SON 

Sedgemoor with such a look in his face the very 
children knew he was marked for doom, and how 
he fled, leaving his men to gain great honour after 
he had forsaken them. Also how he was found 
in peasant's dress, so changed they did not know 
him till the George of diamonds flashed out on 
his tattered garments as he fainted in his captor's 
clutch. Lord Grey was taken with him ; they 
stayed at Ringwood two days and from there 
his Grace wrote frantically to the King and to 
Lord Rochester. 

It is very clear he meant to buy his life with 
his wretched secret, though I think my lord Grey 
must have been ever urging him to die with a 
decent carriage. 

So they brought him to London and he was 
taken before his Majesty, swordless and with his 
hands tied behind him. 

What passed no man knoweth but James 
Stewart ; he has spoken often of it, and I know 
those to whom he has told of Monmouth's ignoble 
desperate pleadings for life at any cost, of his 
casting himself down and imploring mercy. 

Yet he must have been spurred by something 
in the demeanour of his ancient enemy, for he 
never told his secret, and he left the presence with 
anger and dignity, resolving, it must be, to cheat 
the King of that last satisfaction. Yet afterwards 
he fell again into unmanly misery that was the 
wonder of all, and then into a strange mood that 
was neither the apathy of despair, or, as some said, 
an exalted enthusiasm. I wondered then and now 

21 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

where his proofs were : not found on him with the 
other poor trifles I had seen at Bridgewater Castle 
— destroyed, perhaps. And so he died, hurried 
reluctant from life, without either religion or re- 
pentance, sorry for the blood shed in the West, 
firm in his love for Lady Harriet, indifferent to 
the clergyman who cried out on the scaffold : 

" God accept your imperfect repentance ! " 

He would not join in the prayer for the King ; 
when they goaded him he said " Amen " wdth a 
careless air. 

Knowing as I do what bitter terror he felt, 
what ghastly anticipations he had, what agony 
he had endured at the thought of the sheer moment 
of death, with what shivering sickness he felt the 
axe, with what horror he eyed the headsman, I can- 
not bear to write or think how they mangled him. . . . 

And so he died ; he brought much misery on 
the innocent and he was maybe a worthless man, 
yet I could weep for him even now. I am glad 
he did not speak ; Lord Grey has been ever silent 
and no one else knows. 

:|« H: ^ 4: ^ Hi 

Among all those who watched that fair-haired 
head held up it is strange there is not one to think 
it showed little likeness to the dark-browed Stewart 
Kings. . . . 

Here the paper is endorsed in another hand : 

" If this be truth then this was a thing ironical. 

The wTiter of this rambling manuscript and the Earl 

of Tankerville, once Lord Grey, are dead, and there 

be none that know save God who knows and judges." 

22 



A BIOGRAPHY 

The Earl of Strafford 

" Certainly never any man acted such a part, in such a theatre, 
with more wisdom, constancy and eloquence, with greater reason, 
judgment and temper, and with a better grace in all his words and 
gestures, than this great and excellent person did." — Whiteloch on 
the trial of Strafford. 

This was a man who in Lis own time was great 
and fell to dishonoured death, leaving a brilliant 
memory, but one neither respected nor praised ; 
a King raised him, used him and forsook him, a 
people judged him, condemned him, and put him 
to death. Great events followed ; the nation 
shook and changed. The King himself was swept 
away by that same power to which he had in 
vain sacrificed his minister, a greater than the 
King ruled England and men forgot the Earl of 
Strafford save to execrate his policies. 

But they who come home crowned with laurel 
from the wars the popular heroes of an hour are 
not always the only saviours of their country, 
and they who flatter the people do not always 
serve them best. History is a hard, often an 
unreflective, judge ; her verdict, dictated by the 
passion of a moment, lasts too often for centuries. 

Judging a man by his inner spirit, his desires, 
23 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

the use he makes of great abilities, pitying a man 
for his misfortunes, his bitter death, those English 
born may well give a little gratitude to this EngUsh- 
man who had ever England in his heart. 

Thomas Wentworth was of an ancient and 
noble family of Yorkshire, powerful by intellect, 
Puritan by tradition, strong by courage and self- 
belief, above all things deeply desirous of rendering 
that service to his country which is the way that 
most readily appeals to a man of an active com- 
plexion of satisfying that almost unconscious 
yearning for glory that is the sign of a great spirit. 
Mere personal ambition is a proof of either mean- 
ness or madness, and the self-seeking of either 
insanity or vanity has never attained any but a 
brittle fame and a hollow achievement ; if a man 
is to even contemplate the performance of mighty 
deeds, he must have some mightiness within him. 

Strong enthusiasm, unless it be of the head- 
long useless kind, is ever joined to that tincture 
of melancholy which comes from viewing the 
contrasting apathy of the rest of mankind, and 
for the first years of his opening understanding 
Thomas Wentworth was silent, reserved in matters 
poHtical, given to reflect and observe more than 
to speak or act. 

He had the usual education of a gentleman, 
studied at Cambridge, travelled in Europe, became 
Sir Thomas and member for Yorkshire before he 
was twenty- one. 

It was the beginning of the power of parha- 
ments, the beginning of that temper in the people 

24 



A BIOGRAPHY 

which was to later furnish the extraordinary 
spectacle of a nation ruling its own kings and 
retaining a monarchy as a mere ornament to 
that independence which displayed undisguised 
is likely to be too stern an object to please 
a people full of levity and love of show. This 
party was represented by the Opposition that had 
galled and restricted the first Charles since his 
accession ; he, however, rather disliked than 
feared them, and did not doubt that his authority 
would quell their republican principles. 

With these men, among whom was John 
Pym and afterwards a nobler patriot, John Hamp- 
den, Sir Thomas took his seat ; he went not into 
extremes against the court, but conducted himself 
moderately ; he became Gustos Rotulorum for the 
West Biding ; presently the king was advised to 
make him Sheriff of York that he might be dis- 
qualified as a Parliamentary candidate ; next he 
was imprisoned for refusing to pay a forced loan im- 
posed by Charles ; it seemed that he was committed 
beyond withdrawal to the Opposition, daily more 
daring ; and that he was to be one of that band 
of men, firm willed and single minded, who dis- 
covered in an absolute monarchy a menace to the 
general good ; but Wentworth did not see with 
them ; tradition was strong in him, his imagina- 
tion glorified loyalty ; he saw in the king an 
instrument for procuring the greatness of the 
people ; he saw a crisis approaching, a struggle 
drawing nearer, he chose his side, knowing perhaps 
that it was bound to lose, but seeing at least a 

25 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

chance for his own dormant abilities to strengthen 
and exalt a weakening institution. In 1628 the 
Duke of Buckingham was stabbed to the heart 
by one of those Puritans who were resolved that all 
pertaining to Kingship was fatal to their country's 
peace, and in that year Thomas Wentworth took 
the place of the murdered favourite and became, 
with Laud of Canterbury, chief adviser to the 
King. 

It was supposed by his former friends that he 
had covered himself with immortal infamy by 
his desertion of the popular party for that of the 
court, and their censure has been often echoed, 
it being assumed that because the cause he espoased 
was unsuccessful he wasted his genius in serving 
it ; but in 1628 Sir Thomas may have hoped to 
make England as great as did Cromwell after- 
wards, and there was no prophet to tell him his 
judgment was deceived. 

A personal friendship rose between him and 
the stately, formal King with whose traits he had 
much in common. Charles, grateful to the genius 
that took the place of Buckingham's careless 
talents, created him in one year baron, viscount, 
and Lord President of the Council of the North. 

The Puritan party viewed his rise with pecuhar 
hatred ; so hard is it for even just men to stifle 
the claims of party and see any good in that cause 
w^hich is not their own. 

" You have left us," said John Pym, " but we 
will not leave you while your head is on your 
shoulders." 

26 



A BIOGRAPHY 

In 1633 Wentworth was made Lord Deputy of 
Ireland, and endeavoured to reduce order into that 
vexed and discontented country by measures 
which were abused as despotic, but which were 
necessary to a man occupied with great schemes. 
England could never be a great empire while 
Ireland was an independent kingdom ; his claim 
of Connaught only anticipated the inevitable, and 
if the army he was so abused for raising could have 
been kept together under his direction, the crown 
of England might have been saved. As far as 
time permitted, he introduced social benefits into 
the wretched land and encouraged the linen 
industry by planting flax. 

But he was too late, perhaps too impetuous, 
blinded by his own genius for command into 
overlooking the steady rise of the democracy ; 
he himself described his policy as " thorough." 
Had he been allowed the time, he would have made 
a notable thing of this policy ; but the tide was 
against him, and bore him sharply out to ruin. 

Private mahce, not his own faults, brought 
about his downfall, and he was thrown by a misuse 
of the law as wanton as any tyranny that could be 
brought against him. In 1639 John Pym carried 
out his threat and impeached him of high treason ; 
Wentworth, newly created Lord Strafford, was com- 
mitted to the Tower, and the outward disgrace 
and real glory of the man began. 

It was one of the most memorable of all state 
trials, and lacked no element of the tragic, the 
strange, the terrible, or the dramatic. 

27 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

The prisoner was he who for over ten years 
had been the greatest man in the three kingdoms ; 
the principal accuser was one who had been the 
closest friend of the man he accused ; the judges 
were eighty peers of the realm, the witnesses the 
two Houses. A King who loved and a Queen who 
hated the accused were present. The prisoner 
conducted his own defence, and outside beyond 
the doors of Westminster Hall the first murmurs 
of the growing civil war were beginning to rise 
and swell. 

Sir Anthony Van Dyck painted Lord Strafford 
as a dark, handsome man of a robust type dictating 
to his secretary ; the picture shows a personality 
such as is in accordance with what we know of the 
man, and when looking at the proud, half-frowning 
face it is easy to imagine how he stood during 
his trial, pale, composed, erect, scornful of them, 
seeing very surely the axe ahead, having no trust 
save in the sad- eyed King at whose ear the Bourbon 
Queen whispered hatred of him, yet using all his 
magnificence of eloquence to save himself as one 
who is conscious that his life is worth defending. 

Thirteen accusers, who reheved each other, 
plied him with questions for seventeen days, and 
he answered them all with unshaken judgment, 
calm and grace, unaided, unpitied. John Pym's 
hatred spurred his enemies on, and Lord Strafford 
must have tasted the bitterest of all humiliation 
when he looked to where sat his friend Charles 
Stewart, not daring to Hft a hand to save him — 
and he had hoped to make his King great indeed. 

28 



A BIOGRAPHY 

The man on trial for his hfe and honours and 
the King in his regal seat exchanged many a deep 
look across the commoners who were the masters 
of both — " he trusts me, and I am helpless " was 
like a dagger in the heart of Charles. 

By his side always sat the Queen, Mary of France, 
black-eyed, small, in satin and pearls, ready with 
her hand on his wrist, her voice in his ear : "Do 
not rouse the people — let Strafford go " 

She had always hated him ; she hated any 
who endeavoured to share her dominion over her 
husband ; she began, too, to be afraid of the 
people, and as she was of the blood royal of France, 
a breed that could not understand concession, she 
and her priests urged the King into further tyran- 
nical measures ; first, let Strafford go : he had 
devised the unpopular laws ; if his death would 
appease the people, let them glut in his blood 
and keep their complaints from the ear of his 
Majesty. 

So the Queen ; but the King loved Strafford, 
who had served him to this end of ruin, and when 
he looked across at the dauntless figure pleading 
his cause to ears deaf with prejudice, he vowed in 
his heart that his minister should not die, and 
cursed the barking commoners v/ho forced him 
there to witness the humiliation of this his faithful 
servant. 

The genius of one man was triumphant over 
the malice of many. Strafford argued away every 
charge raised against him. A bill of attainder 
was then brought forward, hurried on, and passed 

29 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

on April 26tli, a week after he had closed his 
splendid defence. 

The King, desperate and seeing his own throne 
shaking, yet had the resolution to refuse his assent ; 
he had promised his protection to Strafford and 
would not give way. 

The whole nation rose to demand the blood 
of Thomas Wentworth ; Laud was already in 
the Tower, the Puritan party dominant ; the fallen 
minister had no friend save the King. 

His ambitious, lofty, and reserved spirit tasted 
great agony while he waited through the long 
days of early spring, tramping his chamber in 
the Tower — he who had hoped to make England 
great — and here was England howling for his life 
and honours . . . here was John Pym and his 
fanatic followers triumphant. 

" What is left ? Can the great spirit rise to the 
great crisis ? Having proudly lived, can I proudly 
die ? Can I still serve England — now ? " 

The King was firm, and public feeling rose to a 
panic of excitement. Revolution was on the point 
of shaking the very palace. The Queen, with a 
baseness doubly vile in a woman, used her arts to 
wrest death from Strafford for her husband, vowed 
with tears to flee to France. The Bishop of Lincoln 
urged that the needs and desires of the nation 
were more than a mere private promise. 

But the King was firm ; he would not sign the 
death warrant of Strafford. 

Then the Queen, potent for mischief, wrought 
on the King, since he was obstinate on that point, 

SO 



A BIOGRAPHY 

to save his servant by violent means. The dis- 
tracted Charles took her fatal advice and en- 
deavoured to seize the Tower of London by force 
by means of the troops lately raised by the Queen. 

This attempt on the keys of the kingdom threw 
the nation, already in a ferment, into a tumult of 
wrath and fear, and Lord Strafford was lost. 

The wildfire of party zeal inflamed men into 
believing anything desperate of the King ; thrice 
the members of the House of Commons fled on a 
cracking of the floor, thinking they had trod again 
over gunpowder as in the former reign. There 
was nothing too monstrous to be stated, nor too 
extravagant to be believed. 

But the King would not sign the death warrant 
of his friend and servant ; he was supported by 
the Bishop of London, who bade him listen to 
his conscience rather than to the fierce demands 
of party. Amid all the press of turning strife 
one man was calm — the prisoner in the Tower 
who saw every day how he had failed in his scheme 
of government and how he had been the means of 
embroihng the King with the people instead of 
establishing a great man over a great nation and 
making a light in Europe of Charles Stewart. 

Of all bitter failures, what can be more bitter 
than that of a great statesman who hugely stakes 
and hugely loses beyond redemption, beyond hope ? 
The proud dark-faced man who had stood so high 
and dreamt so daringly had his vigils of anguish 
during those long May days and nights in the old 
Tower already darkened with noble blood and the 

31 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

memory of splendid sufferers. He had lost every- 
thing but his life, and that hung on the promise of 
the King. My lord did not doubt that his master 
would keep that promise ; but what was mere life 
to a man who only valued existence as it meant 
use, power, achievement ? 

He who had given the King and England his 
best now gave all left to him. On one of those 
awakening days of spring, when even in the Tower 
there were trees bursting into leaf, glimpses of 
cloud-flecked blue, bars of sunshine across the cold 
walls and sounds from the wide river of music 
and merry-making, Lord Strafford wrote to the 
King, asking, for the sake of the peace of England, 
to be left to his fate. 

In these words he concluded his noble letter : 
" My consent will more acquit you to God than all 
the world can do besides. To you I can resign the 
life of this world with all imaginable cheerfulness." 
The Kmg gave way, but with no abatement of 
his anguish, since he justly felt that such a request 
was but another reason for him to keep his word. 

He could not, when he had consented, sign the 
warrant himself, so this was done by four lords, and 
he sent a message entreating mercy of the peers, 
or at least a delay ; but there was no pity in England 
for Lord Strafford, nor for the King. 

The worst half of the tragedy was his ; he 
never forgot nor shook his conscience free of what 
he had done. When he came to his own agony 
and bent his sad head to the block he looked at 
Juxon, that same bishop who had been advocate 

32 



A BIOGRAPHY 

for Strafford, and said, '' Remember," and it was 
believed that the terrible whisper referred to the 
forsaken friend who had died the same death eight 
years before. 

At the moment he fell into a kind of apathy 
in the midst of the rejoicing faction who had their 
way at last. 

Lord Strafford prepared for death ; he was in 
the full vigour of life, of a worldly temper, proud 
and ambitious ; the warm days were full of the 
keen joy of life. He tasted to the utmost the 
sharpness of the struggle between flesh and spirit. 
When he heard from the written paper the actual 
words of the King formally condemning him he 
was for a moment broken with emotion and over- 
come at thought of the friendship that had failed 
so miserably ; he, beloved of the King, was to 
die an attainted man, a death humiliating and 
shameful, branded as a traitor. 

He struggled to control his haughty spirit, to 
subdue the flesh that clung to lovely life, but always 
before his eyes were the ripening green, the sweet 
early weather, the sounds from the river, and it 
was not easy. 

The execution was hurried on ; on the 12th of 
May he went to his death in black satins like the 
great gentleman he was ; as he left the gate Arch- 
bishop Laud, his one-time coadjutor, now his 
fellow-prisoner, met him, and he went on his knee 
to receive the blessing of one who was to so quickly 
follow him to the scaffold, then on between his 
guards silent and scornful like the leader of them 

33 D 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

all, while on his face were the low-breathed air 
and the early sunshine, and in his ears the calls 
of the birds and the swish of the river rippling 
hurriedly under the fortress walls. 

Many men have died for England in many ways, 
none under circumstances more difficult and bitter 
than this proud man who sank to rest upon the 
block that May day while his sick, haunted King 
waited in the great palace for the awful news of 
the irrecoverable. 



34 



A POOR SPANISH LODGING 

Philip Wharton, Duke op Wharton 

"The scorn and wonder of his age." — Alexander Po'pe. 

A YOUNG man sat at a wooden table in a small, 
mean room. 

His hands were in his pockets and his head smik 
on his breast, his legs outstretched before him. 

A miserable bed, covered with a dirty blanket, 
occupied one corner of the room, above it being a 
gaunt and poorly carved crucifix. 

The floor, walls and ceiling were lath, plaster 
and worn wood, all soiled, smoked and crumbling. 

The one small window was covered with a 
thick pane of discoloured glass that could not 
open ; some portmanteaux stood beneath and a 
broken chair. 

On the table was a coarse glass stained with 
lees of wine, a loaf of bread, an hour-glass and a 
knife. 

The flies turned in and out of the glass, clustered 
round the loaf and hung in clouds about the 
window. 

Outside the sun, at its full height and strength, 
blazed at white heat, and a bar of vivid hght 
streamed through the smeared glass and fell in a 

36 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

pool of gold on the dirty floor near to the young 
man, who appeared to be dozing, so still did he sit 
and so level was his breathing. 

He was humbly dressed in a travelling coat 
that was much worn, though of a good cloth and 
fashionable cut, a frayed blue silk waistcoat, 
black breeches, boots to his knees, and a coat of 
grey tabinet, all much used and soiled. 

At his side was a light sword, and round his 
throat a neckcloth of fine Venetian lace, carelessly 
folded. 

His hair hung untidily down his back and 
forward over his face ; it was a charming chestnut- 
brown colour and very thick. Presently he 
stretched himself and raised his head without 
removing his hands from his breeches pockets. 

He glanced round the room, and it would have 
been impossible to discover from his expression 
whether the squalor of his surroundings moved 
him to disgust or no. 

His face was unusually handsome, of a high- 
born and rakish type, but ravaged in a ghastly 
fashion by want and illness. The contour and 
pose of youth remained, but all bloom, freshness 
and colour had gone ; his person seemed to have 
seen as much hard service as his clothes and to 
have suffered more. 

From the lines on his brow and at the corners 
of his remarkably beautiful mouth it might have 
been supposed that he was in pain, but his expres- 
sion was calm and his large hazel eyes serene. 
The flies circled the room and beat at the window 

36 



A POOR SPANISH LODGING 

with a monotonous persistency ; the sun burnt 
up the already foul air and heated the room almost 
unbearably. The young man rose, displaying a 
figure no more than the middle height, but of a 
graceful, well-trained manliness, and walked un- 
steadily to the window. 

As he moved he felt his own weakness and 
caught his breath with a quick exclamation. 

For years he had been warned that he was 
kilKng himself as he had been warned that he was 
ruining himself. The last had occurred ; he had 
been ruined in fame and fortune, and it seemed 
as if the first prophecy would be justified also. 
Two nights ago he had ridden from one town to 
another ; six hours in the rain and the chill that 
had followed had greatly increased the vague 
illness that had been for the last two years threaten- 
ing his life. 

He had always been as reckless of his health 
as of all the other great gifts he had once been 
blessed with, and he was paying toll now, a penniless 
exile, bankrupt in everything. 

He could see nothing from the window, the 
blaze of the sun was too strong on the white Spanish 
street. 

The flies droned in his ears, and they were the 
only sound. 

He closed his eyes, for the dazzle of sunshine 
made him feel giddy. 

" Gad," he murmured, " one could do with a 
few drops of rain — a cloud at least." 

He began to be conscious of a great thirst ; 
37 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

there was no water in the brown earthenware jug 
standing in the corner, he knew. Languidly, but 
with the well-schooled and now unconscious grace 
of the man of fashion who is used to move with a 
thousand eyes watching every detail of his dress 
and deportment, the young EngHshman crossed 
the room, unlatched the door and went slowly 
down the dark, steep and dirty stairs. 

He came directly into a large picturesque room 
that gave by a tall open door on to the street. 

It was a kind of general hall or kitchen, the 
smooth black beams of the ceiling hung with rows 
of onions and herbs, all manner of pots and pans 
about the huge open hearth, a window at the 
back looking on to the garden, and in a dusky 
corner an empty cradle and a spinning wheel. 

The young man went to the shelf where the 
thick green glasses stood, took one down and 
dipped it into the red-glazed pitcher that stood 
beneath. The bubble of the water sounded 
pleasantly ; he raised the dripping glass and 
drank with a grateful air. 

He was glad of the cool shadows and of the 
intense quiet ; every one seemed abroad ; it was 
autumn and he supposed they were at work in 
the \aneyards. 

There was an old rush-bottomed chair near the 
black-carved supports of the door ; he seated 
himself with his back to the sunhght in the deserted 
street, and his eyes on the window the other side 
of the room that gave an exquisite ghmpse of a 
fig-tree drooping in the shadowed garden, and 

38 



A POOR SPANISH LODGING 

beyond a glossy myrtle, glittering in distant 
sunbeams. The young man knew that he had not 
long to live, both from ordinary signs and fore- 
warnings and the sure inner instinct his keen 
intelligence was quick to notice and regard. 

He was absolutely without fear ; he had never 
had any credence in any religion or any belief, 
even vague, in a future state of existence, nor had, 
like many, tried to invent these feelings for him- 
self or supply their place with superstitions and 
conventions. 

He had never needed these lures to gild his life 
with promise, always he had found the moment 
sufficient, and whatever the moment demanded, 
in wealth, honour, talent, charm or health, he 
had given lavishly, not unthinkingly, for he had 
always known that a price would be demanded, 
as he had seen it demanded from others of his kind. 

And he was prepared to pay. 

A long life did not attract him ; all the pleasures 
he valued were pleasures that could not with 
dignity be enjoyed when youth was past ; his own 
sparkling wit had often made a butt of an old rake, 
or an elderly prodigal ; he had never intended to 
join the ranks of those people who had outworn 
their enjoyments. 

A poet whom he had patronised had called 
him " The scorn and wonder of the age ; " but 
from his own point of view his life had been the 
very steady following of a very simple philosophy. 

Caring for nothing but the world, that he 
regarded as the golden apple hung above the head 

39 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

of every youth to ignore or gain, he had bought 
the world, with money, with charm, with honour, 
with talent, with beauty and strength and exulted 
in it and sated himself — and he did not complain 
of the bargain. He never complained of anything ; 
his sweet, good humour was held by many to 
condone his villainies as the grace with which 
he took his final fall almost justified the acts 
which had led to that fall. When his political 
levity, his social extravagances, his dissipations 
had finally left him without health or money, 
he had taken the verdict of the doctors, the curses 
of his creditors and the flight of his friends with 
the same gentle smile, and, urged by his ardent 
love of the world to make life an adventure to 
the last, had disappeared from London, where 
he was so dazzling and infamous a figure, to die 
abroad, in the sun and among scenes that 
by their freshness and simplicity disguised, at 
least to a stranger's eyes, the sharpness of their 
poverty. So he, by birth an English Marquis, 
by patent of the Pretender a Duke, son of a famous 
man and himself the most renowned rake in 
London, even among a set that included Viscount 
Bolingbroke, stayed his obscure wanderings at a 
poor inn in an unknown Spanish village and 
prepared himself for death among the peasants 
of a strange land. 

He regretted nothing, not the splendid chances 
he had thrown away, not the fine name he had 
tarnished, not the great talents he had wasted, 
not the life he had sapped and used up before 

40 



A POOR SPANISH LODGING 

its time. He admitted no sins, he claimed no 
virtues and he beHeved in no judgment. 

God he considered a polite myth, invented to 
frighten human weaknesses, the devil a fable to 
excuse man's breakage of his own laws ; he had 
never paid the least regard to either ; never, in 
any moment of disappointment or sickness, had 
he felt any touch of remorse, of regret or fear. 

If he had been given his life over again he 
would have again used it for the same extravagances, 
the same folHes, the same short brilliant flare. 

As he sat now, looking at the distant fig-tree 
and myrtle, he was thinking of his past life without 
compunction, though every incident that rose to 
his memory was connected with some broken 
promise, some shameless deception, some ruined 
heart, some wanton, dishonourable action. 

The one thing he had been faithful to (beyond 
his own Epicurean creed) was the code of a gentle- 
man, as interpreted by the society in which he 
moved. It was a curious code, inherited, not 
learnt, an instinct more than a quahty only re- 
motely connected with the chivalry from which 
it had sprung. 

The Duke would have found this code difficult 
to define ; he called it honour, but it was only a 
kind of flourishing likeness of honour. 

Its laws were simple, mainly these : never be 
afraid ; never chaffer with money nor earn it in 
any way, nor mingle in trade ; never play false 
in your games or your bets ; always be courteous 
to your inferiors and to women ; never take 

41 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

insolence from any one, even the King ; seek out 
danger and the company of your equals ; never 
take up money once you have put it down ; smile 
when you win and laugh when you lose ; never 
speak of your loves nor toast an actress at your 
club. 

My lord had never broken these laws : he 
did not put this to his credit ; he took them as 
naturally as clean linen and neat table manners, 
but perhaps in the casting up of his worthless life 
they might be set against the black length of his 
wicked record, as some poor palliative. There 
was something else my lord could claim, a personal 
quality this and peculiar to himself : he was 
tender to animals and anything weak that came 
his way. 

He could not have turned a step aside to seek 
out the poor or miserable, but when they crossed 
his path he was lavish. 

And no bird or beast had ever suffered through 
him ; he had never lent the brilliance of his 
presence to any baiting or cock-fighting or bull- 
fight. 

This, too, might be set to my lord's account, 
but there was little else. 

Yet he was lovable ; he had always been 
lovable. 

People who knew him and scorned him still 
cared for him ; he had been caressed by Charles 
Edward in genuine affection and liked by King 
George. Perhaps because he was so utterly soul- 
less and made no pretence of being other than 

42 



A POOR SPANISH LODGING 

he was, because he was so entirely frank in his 
passionate capacity for happiness, in his beautiful 
gaiety he attracted those who were themselves 
divided in their aims and too timid to crown 
their own vices as he crowned his, for his fascina- 
tion was more than merely physical and the 
attraction of exquisite manners. 

He was lovable now ; even after his long 
exile from the splendours of St. James, even in 
his worn clothes, even marred by illness and 
weariness, he carried with him something that 
was wholly pleasing, not in the least suggestive 
of the shameful, unlovely things with which his 
name was branded. 

He was reviewing the final adventure of his 
life with no changed sense of values, no blurred 
outlook. 

The near presence of death did not alter his 
opinion in one jot on any particular nor confuse 
his estimate nor awaken new feeling ; he must 
have satisfied, in some way, the purposes for which 
he had been born, to be so serene, so content on 
the eve of the complete end. 

All his senses were absolutely clear, even 
more exquisite than usual ; even more perhaps 
than ever did he appreciate the beauties of Hght 
and colour and scent, the delicacies of sound, of 
touch, yet his mean and unbeautiful surroundings 
did not trouble him ; compared to what they 
might have been they were well enough. It was 
better to die in a poor Spanish lodging than in 
the Fleet, or a garret in Whitefriars, or some 

43 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

kinsman's back room ; nay, better this than the 
Tower and the panoply of death some chill morning 
on the scaffold. 

He would perhaps have preferred an active 
death in some duel, but he made no complaint 
that this had not been the end ordained for 
him. 

He was grateful that he was going to die in the 
sun. 

Leaning back easily in the old willow-wand 
chair, he began to compose some verses — some of 
those witty cynical lines for which he had been 
famous in London and which amused him to 
fashion. 

Presently his sensitive ears detected a light 
sound, a sweet and familiar sound, the play of a 
woman's skirt against her ankles and the floor. 

He broke off his mental composition and turned 
his head towards the shadowy depths of the room 
that lay between him and the window at which 
he had been gazing. 

From out these darknesses a figure emerged 
from a mysterious door that opened and shut on 
farther recesses of blackness, moved into the 
clearer shadows and finally into the full light. 

It was a woman, young and notable, who 
appeared not to notice that there was any one 
in the room, for she stood in a watchful, motionless 
pose, gazing up the dark staircase from which 
the Duke had descended. 

Her dress was fantastic and charming, a tight 
blue satin bodice gleamed round her slender 

44 



A POOR SPANISH LODGING 

waist, and beneath it panniers of pink gauze bil- 
lowed over her hips and were looped away from a 
white petticoat trimmed with blue jet that 
glimmered even when she stood still. 

Round the bottom of this petticoat was a 
garland of pink roses, her stockings, that showed 
well above her ankles, were blue, her shoes white, 
heelless and fastened in with embroidered pink 
ribbons. 

On one arm she carried a pale yellow cloak 
and a black velvet mask ; over her wide shoulders 
was flung, carelessly, but gracefully, a white silk 
scarf with a deep fringe border. 

Her dusky brown hair was slightly powdered 
and gathered on the top of her small head by a 
huge tortoiseshell comb set with red coral, long 
blue jet earrings quivered in her ears, and she 
wore a necklace of fine pearls. 

The Duke noticed these things and the delicacy 
and grace of the woman herself, the poise of her 
head, the straight lines of her profile, the fineness 
of her hands and ankles, the richness of her locks, 
the dark sweep of her eyebrows and the dusky 
bloom on her round cheek. 

He also knew her dress to be that of a dancer 
or ballerina, despite the blue brocade train that 
dragged a couple of yards behind her. 

What or who she was he did not care, nor how 
she came to be in this poor inn dressed in this 
festal fashion. 

He was pleased to see again one of the pretty 
creatures who had always been to him the most 

45 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

entrancing and beautiful objects in an entrancing 
and beautiful world. 

He watched the gentle vision with interest 
and tenderness, making no movement or sound. 

Suddenly she turned full on him her dark 
face that, although it was too broad for per- 
fect beauty, was piquant and glowing with fine 
colour. 

The Duke rose and bowed. 

" I am Philip Wharton, Seiiora," he said in 
Spanish. 

She advanced towards him. 

" I thought you were upstairs," she said 
gravely. 

Her voice was delicate, but her speech had the 
peasant accent of Andalusia. 

" Were you watching for me ? " he asked 
curiously. 

"Yes," she said. "For who else? Why 
should I come back after this long time save to 
see you 1 Yesterday I was here," she added, 
" but you would not see me." 

" Pardon me, I was ill yesterday and did not 
come downstairs." 

She gazed at him with soft, luminous and 
unfathomable eyes. 

" Have I seen you before ? " asked the Duke, 
endeavouring to place her among the many women 
who had flitted across his life. 

" I used to dance," she answered, " at the 
opera in Venice." 

He did not remember her. How could he 
46 



A POOR SPANISH LODGING 

recall one face from out the whirl of joy and gaiety 
he had known in Venice 1 

" You are Spanish ? " he asked. 

" From Andalusia. And you are Enghsh 1 " 

" Yes." 

" And dying 1 " 

" Ah, you know as much as that, do you 1 " 
he smiled. 

*' I know many things now." 

" Ah, wisdom ! " he mocked. " I could wager 
your knowledge begins and ends with the Hst 
of your victims and triumphs. How did you 
come here ? " he asked abruptly. 

'' I ran away." 

" To this place ? " 

'' It was but a stage on the road." 

" You know me ? " he asked. 

" Yes ; I have met you at Paris, at Vienna, 
at Eome and Naples." 

" By gad," he said, " you flatter me by your 
memory." 

He began to notice that she never smiled, and 
it displeased him ; he disliked a grave woman. 

" What is your name ? " he asked in the tone 
of a master, and sank back into the chair, for 
indeed he felt very weak. 

She shook her head. 

" I have so many." 

" Give me one." 

She bent her eyes on him earnestly. 

" What was the name of your first love ? " 
she asked. 

i1 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

He started. 

" I have forgotten." 

" What was the name of the woman you loved 
the most ? " 

Fair faces rose before him, tearful faces, plead- 
ing faces, angry faces — he could not choose between 
them. 

'' I do not know," he said faintly. 

She glanced round the room as if she, too, saw 
the faces that had risen so clearly before his mental 
eyes. 

" You were not kind or loyal to one of them," 
she said. 

Philip Wharton laughed. 

*' Tell me your name," he insisted. 

" You have forgotten it, and you do not know 
it," she returned quickly. " Once I was called 
Helen, but that was a long time ago." 

He looked at her curiously. 

" Tell me about yourself," he said, " and how 
you come to be here alone." 

She put her hands behind her back ; the mantle 
trailed over her train and her fragile dress glimmered 
in the shade. 

*' It was after the opera at Versailles," she 
began. " I was dressed for the ballet and was 
leaving my dressing-room, when they put a cloak 
over my head and carried me out to a coach — we 
drove all night to the house of an English lord 
in the Rue de Vaugirard " 

She stepped suddenly and noiselessly behind 
the Duke. 

48 



A POOR SPANISH LODGING 

-as I was descending from the coacli they 



put a handkerchief over my eyes, so- 



PhiHp Wharton felt a scrap of mushn flung 
over his head and drawn tight over his eyes, 
leaving him in pleasant darkness. 

*' and one led me by the hand, thus " 

Her fingers touched his ; he smiled passively 
beneath the bandage. 

" and took me into the presence of my 

lord, who had betted a thousand guineas that I 
should ride in his cabriolet through Paris. But 
it was not very long before he was tired of me." 

She loosened the handkerchief and withdrew 
it gently. 

Phihp Wharton opened his eyes on cool shade, 
a room hung with raised crimson and white velvet 
and furnished in a very stately style. 

An arched marble window looked on to a blue 
canal on which the rays of the setting sun sparkled, 
and in the seat of this window, that was piled with 
cushions, a lady sat ; she wore a great hooped skirt, 
fluttering with sarcenet ribbons, and in her red- 
gold locks drooped a red rose. 

" As I was saying," she said in a matter-of-fact 
tone, *' you very soon got tired of me." 

" Carina, no," answered the Duke. " I have 
always been in love with you and Venice." 

" You went away. It was the day of the 
Carnival. I was then wearing an orange cloak 
with a fringe. It was exactly five days since I 
had met you. But you cared for me more than 
for any woman you met in Venice." 

49 B 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" I love you now," said Philip Wharton, 
" for I have come back to you when I am dying." 

She looked at him gravely and stepped out of 
the window on to the balcony. 

" Will you come once more in my gondola ? " 
she asked. 

He followed her. 

Light steps led from the balcony to the Canal, 
where a gay gondola cushioned in sapphire blue 
floated. 

The lady stepped in and the Duke after her ; 
the gonddier sped the light boat forward between 
the palaces. 

*' This has always been a pleasant memory to 
me," he said. 

She sat erect with a fan of curled white ostrich 
to lips and looked at him over the feather tips. 

" The night you went away," she said, " my 
husband hired three bravos. I was crossing the 
bridge when I met them — this bridge " 

Suddenly the Rialto was over them ; the 
gondola had shot from blue and gold into darkness. 

'' They thought I was coming to meet you. 
My husband " 

The boat stopped in the blackness ; he felt, though 
he could not see, the lady rise and step out. 

Her hand touched his, and blindly following 
the guidance of it, he stepped ashore, and felt a 
step beneath his feet ; the firm clasp on his wrist 
drew him through a doorway. 

" My husband is coming back to-morrow," the 
voice continued. ''Oh, Phihp, I am afraid ! " 

50 



A POOR SPANISH LODGING 

He put his free hand to his sword. 

" That is fooHsh of you," he said. " I am here." 

" But you have begun to cease to care," her 
voice wailed, " and you will go away." 

As she spoke a door opened to her right, and 
she released his wrist ; he followed her into a 
little boudoir charmingly hung with straw- 
coloured silk. 

The Duke remembered it very well ; he turned 
to the woman. 

She was now a pale blonde wrapped in an em- 
broidered mob and wearing dazzling little silver 
slippers. 

Her face was tear-stained and her eyes pleading. 

" Paris was terrible after you left," she said. 
" Why did you go ? You tired so soon." 

" You have remarked that," he returned, 
" twice, I think, before." 

She began to cry. 

" Do not you love me any more, Philip ? " 

" I have come back to you," he answered ; 
" but my head is rather confused. And, Madame, 
you are spoiling your complexion with these tears." 

" Hush ! " she cried. 

She ran to the dainty hangings that concealed 
the door, raised them, and listened. 

" Some one is coming ! " 

She hastened back to him and half dragged, 
half pushed him to a secret door ; as she touched 
a spring it flew open, and he stepped with a laugh 
into the concealment of a dark secret room that 
was filled with a bitter, pungent perfume. He 

51 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

closed his eyes ; there was a heaviness in his 
head ; he could not tell how long he had been 
closed in when the sliding panel was drawn. 

" It was a false alarm after all," said the 
woman. 

Her black hair hung dishevelled on her brocade 
gown, her hollow face was pale and her eyes stormy. 

" Did you say that you must leave Bois-le-Duc 
to-morrow ? " she demanded hoarsely. 

She held a candle in a pewter stick in her 
right hand and her left clasped her dress together 
over her palpitating bosom. 

" The Prince gave me leave to return to Eng- 
land," he answered. 

He stepped from his concealment into a room 
with polished walls, furnished heavily and well. 

'' You would not betray him after he has given 
you a Dukedom — you would not forsake me ? " 
she asked anxiously. 

" Do you not trust me ? " he asked lightly. 

" Oh yes, I trusted you. But you went away." 

" Always the same ! " he exclaimed im- 
patiently. " Have I not been faithful to return 
to you now ? " 

She began to laugh. 

"Faithful!" she cried. "Faithful!" 

He laughed too, and the echo was long and 
loud. 

He went to the door and opened it on dark 
stairs ; without looking back he descended. 

The first landing blazed with the Hght of a 
thousand candles ; a magnificent doorway with 

52 



A POOR SPANISH LODGING 

portals flung wide invited him into a gorgeous 
ballroom, where splendidly dressed people moved 
to and fro to the melody of violin and harp. 

Philip Wharton entered ; in a little alcove to 
his right he found the woman waiting for him. 

The diamonds sparkled red and blue as if her 
flesh was on fire ; her powdered locks were piled 
high, and the billows of her violet dress spread 
wide on the settee where she sat. 

She laughed. 

"Faithful!" she cried. "Faithful! And 
you are leaving Vienna to-morrow ! " 

He seated himself on the small portion of the 
brocade her spreading skirts had left uncovered. 

His nostrils distended to drink in the perfumed 
air, and his eyes sparkled ; his whole spirit became 
animated in the congenial atmosphere of a court — 
a luxurious court. 

" And I must really die and leave all this," 
he complained. 

He looked at the lady and smiled ; but her 
face was very grave. 

" Let us walk once more in the garden," she 
said, and rose and opened a glass door in the alcove 
that led into a garden that was very prettily lit 
by coloured lanterns. She took the Duke's arm, 
and they passed along the prim paths between 
avenues of clipped limes and box bushes. 

For some while she did not speak ; then she 
whispered — 

"It is strange to see you at Kensington again, 
my lord." Her voice sounded as if it was full 

53 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

of tears. " Strange to think that you must leave 
again so soon." 

She pressed close to his side now, for she no 
longer wore a hoop ; a quilted hood and cloak 
concealed her head and figure, and he thought that 
she must wear jasmine somewhere on her person, 
so strong was the scent of that blossom on the air. 

" I wonder," she continued, " if, when you come 
to die, you will ever think of these moments — the 
broken promises, the broken hearts ? " 

" When I come to die," repeated the Duke 
musingly, " I shall no doubt think of you and your 
sweetness." 

" Not of me and my sadness ? " 

Phihp Wharton did not answer ; he smiled 
into the darkness, which he perceived was beginning 
to be lightened by the first delicate sparkle of dawn. 

" Have you ever done one good action ? " 
continued the voice at his side. 

" Oh, Madame ! " 

" Or shed one tear — one tear for another ? 
One tear to heal all the wickedness you have 
committed — all the grief you have caused ? " 

" Never ! " he answered. '' Never ! " 

" Is there no memory you can recall that would 
soften you to tears now ? " ^^ 

He answered " None." 

Her hand slackened on his arm and was with- 
drawn ; in the confusion of the lifting shadows 
and the spreading milky whiteness of the new 
day he lost her^ 

He was alone in the garden. No, not a garden ; 
54 



A POOR SPANISH LODGING 

it was soon light enough to see, and he then noticed 
that he was walking in an English field in early 
spring-time. 

Before him a meadow sloped to a fence that 
enclosed a little wood ; bluebells, daffodils, and 
primroses grew under the branches of the trees ; 
the meadow was starred all over with buttercups 
and daisies. 

To one side of the fence was a small thatched 
cottage behind which the sun was rising, and 
where the distance merged into the early blue 
vapour the sharp spire of a church rose. 

A slight, very sHght, feeling of apprehension 
came over Philip Wharton. 

" I do not wish to come back here," he said. 
" This has all been a dream, and I will wake up 
now." 

Yet he walked on. 

It was absolutely still ; though the sun had 
now risen clear of the mists and was glittering 
in a clear heaven, there was no one abroad. 

The Duke approached the cottage, saying to 
himself — 

" I know this place, and I do not wish to see 
it again." 

Before the wooden gate of the tiny garden he 
paused. 

A few modest flowers were growing in neat 
beds — pinks, wallflowers, and sweet williams ; 
beside the closed door was a lavender bush. 

The Duke's sensation of dread deepened. He 
noticed that a white blind hung behind each of 

55 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

the four windows. He felt that he was there 
against his will. Peaceful and lovely as the scene 
was, it was one from which he would willingly 
have fled. 

He left the garden and wandered away into 
the little wood and seated himself under a pine 
tree and took his head in his hands. 

And as he sat there he heard the church bell 
tolling. 

" I am not going," he said to himself, and for a 
while he was resolute and would not move ; yet 
presently he rose and went back to the cottage. 

The door was half open now. 

He pushed wide the garden gate and entered ; 
he was acutely conscious of the scent of the simple 
flowers and the tolHng of the bell. 

Without knocking he entered. 

Two men were in the narrow passage carrying 
before them a coffin. 

Philip Wharton found himself face to face 
with it ; it was held upright, and the name-plate 
was near his eyes. He read, " Aged nineteen." 

He heard a woman sobbing in the room into 
which the cofhn was being taken, and he peered 
through the crack of the door. 

On a humble bed lay the wasted form of a young 
girl from which the soul had recently departed. 

Philip Wharton passed out of the house, out 
of the garden, and down the meadow. 

" I am sorry," he said ; he had never smcerely 
spoken those words before. 

He walked till he came to the church, and then 
56 



A POOR SPANISH LODGING 

he entered the graveyard, and seated himself on 
an old sunken tomb and watched the poor funeral 
procession that presently wound through the 
lych-gate. 

When they had all left and he was again alone, 
he walked down the sloping churchyard path 
and looked at the new-made grave. 

A simple headstone was already in place ; it 
bore no name, but only the date and the words — 

" A broken and a contrite heart, Lord, Thou 
wilt not despise." 

PhiHp Wharton put bis hand before his eyes ; 
he felt sorry and afraid. 

All the women who had ever loved him seemed 
to lie buried in that humble grave. Love itself, 
compact of a thousand graces, a thousand trans- 
ports, which had been made manifest to him under 
so many different shapes, in so many climes, 
seemed to have fallen and died at last and to lie 
buried here with Lucy. . . . 

He took his hand from his eyes and saw about 
him the poor Spanish lodging, the distant window 
with the fig and myrtle from which the sun had 
now departed. He sat up shivering. 

" What dreams ! " he muttered. " What dreams ! " 

He found his eyes wet with tears ; he rose and 
held on to the back of the chair. For one awful 
moment he believed in God. Then he shook off 
the oppression. 

" She died as I must die," he said. " Why not ? " 

A chill had fallen with the setting of the sun. 
He shivered again, and found that his limbs were 

57 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

stiff beneath him ; he pushed the dark hair back 
from his face and gazed before him, trying to 
conjm:e the figure of the dancer in the pink gauze 
and blue jet out of the encroaching shadows. 

But he knew that it was useless, that she was 
dead and buried with all those other women. 

And death had him by the throat, was struggling 
with him even now, and he must prepare himself 
to go down into the darkness that enveloped them. 

He went upstairs to the room he called his 
own ; as he opened the door of it he heard steps 
below, and leaning over the rails saw the old woman 
who owned the inn enter with a basket of grapes 
on her grey head. 

The young Duke blew her a kiss ; she was the 
last woman whom he would ever see. He entered 
his room ; the flies still buzzed round the stale bread 
and dirty glass, but the golden pool of sunHght 
had gone from the floor. 

" Not one of those women," reflected Philip 
Wharton, " ever thought that I should die — 
like this ! " 

So saying the young rake seated himself heavily 
and wearily in his former seat by the table and 
stretched out his hand for his pipe which lay next 
the glass. 

But before he touched it, he felt a slight cold 
touch on his shoulder, and thought he heard 
some one behind him. 

As he turned to look he drew a long breath. 

" Why, Lucy " he said, and on that word — 

died. 

58 



DEFEAT 

Edward Plantagenet 

Edward Plant agenet, Prince of Wales, Duke of 
Cornwall, Earl of Chester, Lord of Biscay and 
Uridales, rested at Bordeaux with his brother 
Johan of Gaunt, Duke of Acquitaine and Lancaster, 
Earl of Derby, Lincoln and Leicester, Seneschal 
of England and the English army. 

Edward of Wales had saved his word ; he 
could not save Acquitaine. 

He had redeemed the oath sworn before the 
high God that the treacherous Limoges should 
pay for its disloyalty. The town lay now a 
burnmg ruin ; in one day three thousand men, 
women, and children had atoned with their blood 
for the falsity of Jean le Cros, Bishop of Limoges. 

For Edward had sworn by his father's soul to 
wipe out every life in Limoges. Chained and 
bare-headed the Bishop had been brought before 
the Prince, and had only been spared by the inter- 
cession of Johan of Gaunt, for Edward had vowed 
by God and St. George that the arch traitor should 
perish. 

Yet at this he stayed his hand and came to 
Bordeaux, carried in a litter, his vengeance satisfied 
but his chivalry stained by the innocent blood of 

59 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

churls, an unhappy knight, ill at ease in mind and 
body, without money for his men-at-arms, with 
Acquitaine slipping from him. East and south 
and north the French were advancing, and he 
had no means to stay them. 

This was great bitterness for one who had been 
the pattern of knighthood in Europe, who was a 
King's son and the hero of the English. So he 
came to Bordeaux, where his family waited him 
in a castle above which the Leopards floated, and 
saw the ships in the harbour waiting to carry him 
back to England. At Cognac he had delegated his 
powers and his offices to his brother, and Johan of 
Gaunt had taken up the almost hopeless task ; 
but he was ambitious, a famous knight, eager to 
play a great part among the Princes of Europe, 
also in his full health and lusty ; but Edward 
wasted from day to day. After the feverish fury 
of the attack on Limoges and the ferocity of his 
vengeance, he fell deeper into his sickness and 
brooded bitterly in his mind. 

When he had halted at Lormont a messenger 
had ridden up to meet him with word from the 
Princess, Jehanne of Kent. She had her two 
children with her, and one, the elder, was sick. 

Edward said no word to this message, and so 
they carried him, a silent knight, into the castle. 

All gaiety, all joy, all splendour of chivalry 
and deeds of arms, all the brightness of glory and 
bliss of youth seemed overclouded now. 

Edward the King was old, Edward the Prince 
was sick and defeated, Philip pa the Queen was dead, 

60 



DEFEAT 

and English chivalry was smirched by the massacre 
of Limoges. 

And the ships waited to take ingloriously home 
the proudest knight in Europe to rest his limbs in 
the Savoy and presently his bones in St. Peter's 
Church at the Abbey near Westminster. When 
he came to the castle he asked after his little son 
Edward. 

They carried him to a room overlooking the 
Bay of Biscay that lay placid beneath a pale 
October sky, and laid him on a couch by the 
window ; and he asked again for his son. 

Immediately the Princess Jehanne, his wife, 
entered the room and came to his side, and in 
silence went on her knees beside him. 

" Ah, joli coeur / " he said, and raised his 
weary eyes and took her long face between his 
hands and gazed down into it. 

" What happened at Limoges ? " she asked, 
without a word of greeting or duty. 

His hands fell to his sides and his worn counten- 
ance overclouded. 

" I kept my word," he muttered. 

Tears came into the eyes of Jehanne of Kent. 

" I would you had been foresworn, seigneur," 
she answered, " for the hand of God is against us." 

" In what way ? " asked Edward. 

" In your sickness," she said, " for, certes, I 
perceive you very weak — and in the illness of the 
child." 

" Help me up," answered the Prince, " that I 
may go to him." 

61 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

He raised himself to a sitting posture and put 
his feet to the ground ; his simple dull red robe 
flowed round him unbroken by a jewel, his dark 
thin face had the look of a man weary of himself. 

With her arm round his shoulder Jehanne 
supported him ; she was very grave, like one who 
had no comfort to give. 

" That I should lean on you, joli coeur .' " he 
said, and rose unsteadily, holding to her arm. 
" Look well to this child, Jehanne," he added in 
a sterner tone, " for meseems he will wear the 
crown sooner than I " 

" Helas / " she answered tenderly. " This is 
not Edward who speaks so sadly " 

" Jehanne," he said, " I shall never wear mail 
again." 

She shook her head, looking up at him, and tried 
to smile. 

" I shall no more set lance in rest nor draw 
sword," he continued. " I have been useless sick 
so long, and now I feel death in my bones." 

" Never," said the gentle Jehanne, '' have you 
come back to me in this ill humour — the air of 
England will restore you, seigneur." 

" The air of England will be no balm to my 
hurts," he answ^ered. " Take me to the child." 

She led him gently to the next chamber, her 
own, where Prince Edward had lain two days in 
an increasing fever. 

It was a tall and glooming room, hung with 
cloths covered with stitching in bright wools. 

The two arched windows opened on to the 
62 



DEFEAT 

courtyard and the distant prospect of the sea, and 
were crossed by the boughs of a poplar tree that 
shook golden and amber leaves against the mullions. 

An Eastern rug spread the floor, and there was 
an open hearth on which some logs smouldered. 

The bed stood out from the wall opposite the 
windows, and was hung with curtains of clean 
blue and white check linen ; at the foot of it were 
two chairs, on one of which a white dog slept. 

Beside the bed was a j^ne dieu, with an illumi- 
nated book on the rest, beneath which hung a 
long strip of embroidered silk, beyond that several 
coffers and chests, still unpacked, and a couch 
piled with skins and garments. 

Two women and a man were talking together 
over the fire ; they rose hastily at the entrance of 
the Prince, but he took no heed of them. 

Aided by his wife, he came to the end of the 
bed and stood holding by the light rail. 

Under the blue and white frill of the canopy 
a child lay asleep, his brown hair a tangle on the 
stiff white bolster, his flushed cheek pressed against 
his hand. 

The coverlet that was worked with the arms of 
England on a blue ground was drawn up to his 
chin, his little body only slightly disturbed thQ 
smoothness of the heavy fall of the silk. 

" In what manner did he become sick ? " 
demanded the Prince hoarsely. " God wot, you 
might have looked to him better." 

The Princess quivered beneath his hand on 
her shoulder^ 

63 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" Neither he nor Eichard," she answered, 
" has been from my sight since you left me ; 
but there has been much sickness in Bordeaux." 
The tears overbrimmed her eyes and ran down 
her pale cheeks. " I have been watching him 
these two days without sleep," she added. 

Edward of Wales did not answer her ; his 
hollow eyes were fixed upon his heir — that third 
Edward who was to carry on the splendour of 
England and the glory of Plantagenet. 

The boy had always been next his heart ; 
Richard, his second son, was not of so kindly a 
nature. His father did not see in him promise 
of his own qualities, but his eldest born was his 
own copy, beautiful, brave, at six a perfect little 
knight. 

Jehanne glanced timidly up at his bitter, stern 
face. 

" You must not grieve," she whispered ; " he 
will be well in a little while. Is he not strong, 
and will he not be running beside you in a few 
short days ? " 

Still Edward the Black Prince did not answer ; 
he disengaged himself from her fond support 
and walked heavily to his son's pillow, then sank 
on his knees on the bedstep and clasped his thin 
hands against the coverlet. 

The little face so near to his was calm and 
proud, the flower of English beauty, gold and rose 
in tint, blunt featured, strongly made, yet deHcate. 

Save that he was deeply flushed and his hair 
damp beneath the tumble of silken curls, he might 

64 



DEFEAT 

have been in perfect health. The weary, sick, 
disappointed, and defeated knight, with that 
dark day of Limoges on his soul, stared with a 
piteous eagerness at the child's gracious innocency. 

The child who would be King of England 
soon, surely ; it was mere chance who would 
live the longer, the old King languishing at West- 
minster in tarnished glory at Alice Ferrer's side, 
or his famous son who had just resigned his com- 
mands and was coming home to die. Edward 
himself never thought that he would be King ; 
he felt the sands of life running out too swiftly. 

That day when he had been carried through 
the slaughter round the church of St. Etienne at 
Limoges he had known that it was the last time 
he would look on war. 

And Edward the King could not live long now. 

So soon the fair child would be Lord of England 
and possessor of all the perilous honours and 
glories of his father. The Prince's proud head 
sank low ; the hot tears welled up and bhnded 
him, then dripped down his cheeks as he considered 
his smirched chivalry. 

And the Princess Jehanne saw this, but did 
not dare to stir from her place, for she knew that, 
as a shield once dented by a heavy sword can 
never be made smooth again, so a knight's honour 
once stained can never more be cleaned, even by 
the bitterest repentance. For her husband to 
have fallen from this lofty code, which was the 
only code that held among those of gentle blood, 
was a more awful thing than the lapse of a poor 

65 F 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

obscure kniglit, for he had blazed so brightly in 
his chivalry and brought such renown to England 
that the whole world had echoed with his fame. 

The Prince rested his cheek against the arms 
of England on the coverlet ; he felt the lassitude 
of a man who sees that life is done, and that never 
more in this world will he perform feats of arms or 
guide great policies or strive with men or shine 
before them. 

The loss of his strength had had the effect of 
drawing a veil between him and the world ; seeing 
as a spectator those events in which he had once 
played a leading part, he had come to estimate 
things differently. 

And now that feehng culminated ; he felt like 
one very old, looking back on a long Ufe, or as if 
he beheld the incidents of his career painted in 
little bright pictures on a long roll of vellum. 

It was an unfinished life, a broken, defeated 
life, perhaps men might hereafter call it a tarnished 
life. 

The Prince knew this, and the sense of failure 
was like a black cloud on his heart. 

But his little son, sleeping beneath the lepoard- 
strewn coverlet, would redeem his own unfulfilled 
promise. 

" Ah, dear Lord Christ, and St. George," he 
prayed, " let this be so — let him be a very perfect 
knight and a great King." 

Hearing a little movement, he lifted his head. 

The child was awake ; the sparkhng blue of 
his eyes was briUiant in his flushed face. 

66 



DEFEAT 

" Seigneur ! " he whispered, seeing his father ; 
he smiled. " Shall we be going to England 
soon ? " 

" Even now they load the boats," answered 
the Prince. " You wish to return to England ? " 

" Certes,^' said the child wistfully. '* Is the 
war over ? " he added. 

" What should you know of that ? " asked 
the Prince, startled. 

" I did hear the knights all talking of the war." 

" It is not over," answered Edward sombrely. 
*' Your Uncle Lancaster will finish that business." 

" Helas ! I would I were a big knight, Seig- 
neur," murmured the child. 

" There is time for that," said the Prince. 

His son stared at him for a moment's silence, 
then said — 

" When the knights showed us feats with the 
lance in the courtyard, Richard was afraid." 

" Nay," replied Edward angrily, " not afraid ! " 

The child nodded. 

*' Richard has a new silk cote hardie which 
pleases him mightily ; but when I am well I shall 
have a shirt of mail, shall I not ? " 

" Ay ! " answered the Prince, " if the armourer 
can make one so small." 

The child closed his eyes. 

" Why am I sick, Seigneur ? " he muttered, 
" Did I do wrong ? " 

Edward shivered. 

*' You are not sorely sick ? " he demanded 
hoarsely. 

67 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

His son put out a hot hand, which the Prince 
clasped tightly. 

" I feel so tired," he whispered, still with his 
eyes closed ; " but when I sleep the dragons come 
and crawl over the bed " 

Jehanne had crept round to the other side of 
the pillow. 

"Let him sleep, Edward," she whispered 
anxiously. 

'' He can sleep while I hold his hand," answered 
the Prince, never lifting his eyes from his son's face. 

" Nay, but you should rest," she insisted. 
'' Have you not come a long journey, and are 
you not sick ? " 

" I rested at Lormont," answered Edward. 

The Princess lifted her red kirtle from her 
feet and crossed to the doctor, who stood between 
the two women on the hearth, and whispered to 
him, her pretty face quivering with agitation. 

A wind was rising from the sea, ruffling the 
waves, shaking the cordage of the anchored ships 
and lifting the little pennons of England that 
struggled at the main masts. This wind beat 
at the diamond - shaped leaded casements and 
scattered the leaves from the poplar tree without 
in a yellow shower like golden ducats dropped by 
a reluctant hand across the prospect of sea and 

to^vn. 

The Princess Jehanne came back to the bed 
with the doctor; he was a Spaniard, who had 
been in the service of Don Pedro and was renowned 
for his knowledge of Eastern medicine. 

68 



DEFEAT 

He spoke in French to the Prince, with a 
courteous humility. 

'* Fair Seigneur, permit me to look to the little 
Prince. And for yourself, it would be wiser that 
you should rest." 

Edward glanced up into his cool, composed 
face ; then rose heavily and seated himself in the 
stiff chair against the wall. 

The doctor bent over the child, delicately 
touched his brow, then called, in soft Spanish, 
one of the women, who came with a small horn 
beaker in her hand. 

The little Prince was moaning. When he saw 
the draught he tried to push it away, and shut 
his lips obstinately. 

" Ah, far def cried the father, *' what 
manner of knight will you become ? " 

The child sat up, shuddering, but meek, and 
swallowed the noisome liquid without a protest. 

'* Is he better ? " whispered the Princess 
Jehanne, drawing the coverlet anxiously up over 
him as he lay down. 

The doctor shook his head. 

" Not — worse ? " she faltered. 

" That I cannot say," he replied. " The fever 
is very high." 

She glanced at her husband sitting gloomy 
and silent, and beckoned one of the women and 
whispered to her to fetch Prince Richard, who 
might charm the Prince out of his melancholy. 

But when his second son was brought and led 
up to him, Edward showed no manner of interest. 

69 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

Yet the child was of a neat and exact beauty 
and very richly dressed in brown silk and very 
humble in his duty. 

'' Were you afraid of the lance play ? " asked 
his father. 

Richard looked up in a mischievous and charm- 
ing manner. 

"I do prefer, Seigneur, to go in a litter to 
horseback," he lisped. 

*' Do you not love to see the jousts 1 " frowned 
Edward. 

" I like to play at the ball," returned Richard. 

" Take him away for a false knight," said the 
Prince wearily. 

" Ahe, at four years old ! " cried Jehanne of 
Kent indignantly. She came round the bed and 
caught the younger Prince to her bosom swiftly, 

" He is my son," flashed Edward, ** and he loves 
not arms. Take him hence." 

The Princess gave Richard to the lady who had 
brought him, and as he found himself being carried 
away he began to wail and cry, which completed 
the Prince's contempt ; in truth he was augry 
with Richard for being well and lusty while his 
brother lay sick. The Princess noticed his exclama- 
tion of annoyance as the child broke into sobs. 

" You are not fair to Richard," she said, 
flushing. 

" Pardi, you must have your favourite," he 
retorted gloomily. '* H you had given the care 
to Edward you do to Richard he might have been 
on his feet to welcome me." 

70 



DEFEAT 

Jehanne turned abruptly away, smarting from 
the injustice of the rebuke. 

" If you had spared Limoges," she answered, 
'' God's judgment would not have fallen on you 
in this matter." 

The Prince shrank against the wall and lifted 
tortured eyes. 

Instantly she was on her knees before him. 

*' Forgive me," she said passionately. 

He did not speak a word ; his thin hand lightly 
touched the silver caul that bound her fair hair, 
but his eyes had moved to his son. 

The little Prince slept again, though uneasily, 
with moans and twitchings in his limbs. 

"I might have spared Limoges," muttered 
Edward, " but I had sworn by my father's soul." 

Jehanne kissed the hand that had been with- 
drawn from her head. 

'' Come away for a little while," she pleaded, 
" while he sleeps." 

He rose and suffered her to lead him into the 
next chamber, where he lay exhausted along the 
couch by the oriel window and sent for his beloved 
brother, the Duke of Lancaster. 

Jehanne sat silently by his side on a little 
stool, her brow furrow^ed and her cheeks colourless ; 
she had never seen the Prince so silent, so weak, 
so troubled. 

She was relieved when the magnificent Johan, 
still in his camail and surtout, full of vigour and 
energy, entered the chamber. 

" How goes the lading of the ship ? " asked 
71 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

Edward of Wales. " We sail with the first fair 
wind." 

" Pardi," said the Duke in his deep voice, *' I 
have no time to go down to the shore yet, but I 
do not think they will make delays." 

" Surely," said the Prince. " I am right weary 
of Acquitaine." 

And he gave a sigh as if he would burst his 
bosom. 

" Yet I must see more of it," returned Johan, 
coming to salute the Princess, which he did with 
good will, being close in sincere friendship with 
this lady. 

The Prince lay back languidly. 

" How can you keep a foothold without 
money ? " he asked impatiently. 

Johan's deep eyes rested lovingly on his brother's 
changed face. 

'' By St. George," he said, " if I can keep these 
fiefs no other way, I will out of my own revenues 
and charges support the war " 

Edward looked at him fully, and the tears 
washed the eyes of the Princess. 

" Seigneur," she said, " you can with a very 
comfortable heart return to England, knowing 
how loyally Johan will uphold you here." 

She felt warmly towards Johan, for she knew 
that it was he who had turned aside the Prince's 
vengeance from Jean le Cros and saved him 
from the crime of taking the life of a son of the 
Church. 

Perhaps the Prince thought of that too • 
72 



DEFEAT 

perhaps he thought that the blood of the three 
thousand slain in Limoges was as heavy a burden 
to bear as the blood of a bishop. 

" Ay, save Acquitaine, Johan," he murmured, 
" for the honour of England." 

His eyes turned wistfully to the fading day 
that died beyond the oriel window. Surely, he 
thought, I have drunk of the last drop of bitterness. 
I, Edward of Wales, to return to England a useless 
man, leaving defeat behind for a younger knight 
to redeem. 

The Duke of Lancaster stood watching him, 
with many thoughts in his heart, and presently 
Edward turned to him and spoke, in a voice earnest 
and feeble. 

** Johan, when the King dies I shall be in my 
grave." 

The Princess broke his speech by a sharp, 
piteous intake <"f breath, and caught desperately 
at his slack hand. 

*' Oh, Jehanne," he said, " I have flattered 
your fears long enough. And now I must speak 
straightly." 

He paused, for his breath failed him. 

" Speak," answered Johan, " for I am ready 
to take any charge that you may give me " 

" My son Edward will be King of England," 
whispered the Prince ; " and he is a young child. 
Stand you by him and by his mother in their 
difficulties." 

*' I will," said the Duke gravely. 

" I entreat this of you now," added Edward, 
73 



, GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

'' for it well may be that I shall never see you 
again. I think," and the bitterness of his failure 
echoed in his voice, " that I shall die before we 
regain Acquitaine." 

"Be of better cheer, brother," answered the 
Duke, "for I have great hopes that you will 
recover in England." 

" Nay, I am past mending," said the Prince ; 
" and were it not that I have some desire to draw 
my last breath in English air, I would die here 
and leave my bones where I have left my knight- 
hood and my chivalry." 

" You scarcely think of me," said Jehanne of 
Kent, and her eyes reminded him how much he 
had loved her once ; lately he had seemed to fall 
away from the close confines of her affection. 

He returned her gaze sadly. 

" Yea, I think of you," he answered, " but 
men's matters fill my mind. Y^et be content. 
You are a sweet woman, Jehanne." 

He caressed her cheek with languid fingers, 
and again his eyes sought the window and the 
pale sky beyond, and his face was moody, as if 
he saw passing in the windy spaces without all 
the pageants, battles, triumphs, ' achievements 
and glories that had gone to make his life — all the 
great world that was still full of feats of arms, of 
ambitions, of splendour, of laughter, whirling, 
receding, leaving him in this quiet chamber, 
useless, sick, and defeated. 

The Duke.of Lancaster, who was in command 
of the troops who had escorted the Prince to 



DEFEAT 

Bordeaux and had a hundred matters on his 
mind, left the chamber. 

Jehanne sat silent, forgotten, unnoticed, beside 
the Prince, who, with his head sunk on his breast, 
was dreaming of the life that was past and the 
life he had hoped to live. 

Presently candles were brought in, but he made 
no movement nor did the Princess, stiff and cold 
on her stool. 

The wind, with a gentle persistence, shook the 
tall window-frame and lifted the arras on the wall ; 
clouds were coming up from beyond the sea and 
blotting the tawny crimson streaks of the sunset. 

Dark settled in the chamber and the candles 
winked, little points of light in a great gloom. 

Pleasant, cheerful noises of horses and men 
came from the courtyard where the lading and 
unlading was proceeding ; the sounds of the mules 
and their drivers could be heard as a long pro- 
cession of them laden with baggage started for 
the ships. 

At last the Prince spoke. 

** This is a homeward wind," he said. 

As he raised his head to speak he saw the door 
open and the Spanish doctor enter. 

Jehanne turned, and, fearful of bad news, put 
her finger to her lips. 

But Edward got to his feet, caught her aside, 
and said in the voice of a strong man — 

" What news of my son ? " 

The doctor answered steadily, without fear or 
hesitancy. 

75 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" The Prince is worse, Seigneur, and it were 
well that you should come." 

Edward of Wales bowed his head and followed 
the doctor into the next apartment. 

The candles were lit and the curtains drawn ; 
a smell of herbs, of wax, of incense, was heavy in 
the air. A priest was kneeling at the foot of the 
bed ; the full Latin words of his whispered prayer 
came clearly to the Prince's ears. 

The little Edward lay on his back with his head 
flung upwards. 

An awful change had come over him since 
last his father had looked on him ; an expression 
of pain had also given him an expression of maturity, 
the unnatural flush had faded, leaving him bluish- 
white, while under his bright eyes was a purple 
stain. 

The Prince staggered to the bed. 

" Limoges, Limoges," he muttered. 

He cast himself on his knees and clutched the 
coverlet. 

'' Dear Lord Jesus, what is this coming to me ! " 
he whispered. 

Another doctor moved about ; Jehanne stopped 
and spoke to him. He could tell her nothing save 
that, despite all the most approved remedies, the 
Prince had within the last hour become rapidly 
worse and finally lost consciousness. 

Jehanne turned desperately to the great bed 
where her child lay, breathing heavily, with glazed 
fixed eyes and dry lips. 

'' Is it the plague ? " she asked. 
76 



DEFEAT 

They could not tell her. 

** Oh, dear, dear Lord and St. George," prayed 
the Prince, " put not this loss on England ; punish 
me not this way ! " 

The child turned on his side and muttered a 
few words, all relating to arms and horses and 
war ; his eyes closed jerkily and then fluttered open. 

Johan of Lancaster entered ; he whispered to 
the doctors, then came lightly to the bed, walking 
as softly as a woman for all his great stature and 
bulk. 

He glanced at the child, he glanced at his 
brother, then touched the kneeling priest on the 
shoulder. 

" He will not die," said the Prince ; *' in a 
little while he will wake and be well again." 

The priest rose and left the room. 

A long swell of wind lifted the Eastern tapestry 
on the floor, fluttered the long curtains and stirred 
the aromatic scents and the clouds of incense that 
hung in the air. 

Jehanne of Kent stood rigid, staring down at 
the pillow ; her yellow hair had slipped and hung 
loose in the silver caul. 

And her face showed hollow in the fluttering 
candlelight. 

The little Prince turned from side to side, 
catching his breath in his throat. 

*' Seigneur . . ."he gasped, " let me . . . 
mount the white horse . . . the great horse. ..." 

He began to cough, and his small fingers pulled 
at the pillow ; he stared straight at his father. 

77 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" He does not see me," whispered Edward ; 
" he is blind." 

" Why do you leave me alone ? " complained 
the child ; " but I . . . am . . . not . . . afraid 
— never . . . afraid." 

The Prince caught his arm passionately, then 
turned in a slow horror, for he saw Jehanne and 
his brother sink to their knees. He looked over 
his shoulder. 

In the doorway stood three priests ; the centre 
one held with upraised hands an object swathed 
in white silk. 

The Host. 

" In nomine patris, filiis, ct spiritus sanctus,'^ 
he said, and drew aside the white silk, revealing 
the Eucharist glittering like a captured star. 

" No," began Edward, " no " 

He turned again to the bed ; a light struggle 
shook the child's limbs. He twisted his arm out 
of his father's grasp and pressed his two hands 
together, pointed heavenwards. 

" Saint — George " he breathed very faintly, 

then " England." 

His hands fell apart and his mouth dropped 
into a circle ; a faint quiver ran through his body, 
and his head sank on to his shoulder. 

The Host was borne round the bed, and no one 
moved. 

Then Edward rose, regardless of the Presence 
of God. 

" Too late," he said in a terrible voice. " My 
son, my son ! " 

78 



DEFEAT 

And before the priest carrying the Eucharist 
the victor of Cressy sank like a felled sapling, and 
Jehanne caught his head on her knee, her heart 
motionless in her bosom. 

So died the youngest of the three royal Edwards 
of England, a few days before the sailing from 
Bordeaux, and soon after the other two were both 
at peace in Westminster and Kichard was on the 
throne with Johan of Gaunt for his guardian and 
many troubles ahead. 



79 



TWILIGHT 

LucREZiA Borgia, Duchess d'Este 

Three women stood before a marble-margined 
pool in the grounds of the Ducal palace at Ferrara ; 
behind them three cypresses waved against a 
purple sky from which the sun was beginning to 
fade ; at the base of these trees grew laurel, ilex, 
and rose bushes. Round the pool was a sweep of 
smooth green across which the light wind lifted 
and chased the red, white and pink rose leaves. 

Beyond the pool the gardens descended, terrace 
on terrace of opulent trees and flowers ; behind 
the pool the square strength of the palace rose, 
with winding steps leading to balustraded balconies. 
Further still, beyond palace and garden, hung 
vineyard and cornfield in the last warm maze of 

heat. 

All was spacious, noble, silent ; ambrosial 
scents rose from the heated earth — the scent of 
pine, lily, rose and grape. 

The centre woman of the three who stood by 
the pool was the Spanish Duchess, Lucrezia, 
daughter of the Borgia Pope. The other two held 
her up imder the arms, for her limbs were weak 
beneath her. 

80 - 



TWILIGHT 

The pool was spread with the thick-veined 
leaves of water-lilies and upright plants with 
succulent stalks broke the surface of the water. 
In between the sky was reflected placidly, and the 
Duchess looked down at the counterfeit of her face 
as clearly given as if in a hand-mirror. 

It was no longer a young face ; beauty was 
painted on it skilfully ; false red, false white, 
bleached hair cunningly dyed, faded eyes darkened 
on brow and lash, lips glistening with red oint- 
ment, the lost loveliness of throat and shoulders 
concealed under a lace of gold and pearls, made 
her look like a portrait of a fair woman, painted 
crudely. 

And, also like one composed for her picture, 
her face was expressionless save for a certain air 
of gentleness, which seemed as false as everything 
else about her — false and exquisite, inscrutable 
and alluring — alluring still with a certain sickly 
and tainted charm, slightly revolting as were the 
perfumes of her unguents when compared to the 
pure scents of trees and flowers. Her women had 
painted faces, too, but they were plainly gowned, 
one in violet, one in crimson, while the Duchess 
blazed in every device of splendour. 

Her dress, of citron-coloured velvet, trafled 
about her in huge folds, her bodice and her enormous 
sleeves sparkled with tight-sewn jewels ; her hair 
was twisted into plaits and curls and ringlets ; 
in her ears were pearls so large that they touched 
her shoulders. 

She trembled in her splendour and her kaees 
81 G 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

bent ; the two women stood silent, holding her 
up — they were little more than slaves. 

She continued to gaze at the reflection of 
herself ; in the water she was fair enough. Pre- 
sently she moistened her painted lips with a quick 
movement of her tongue. 

" Will you go in, Madonna ? " asked one of the 

women. 

The Duchess shook her- head ; the pearls 
tinkled among the dyed curls. 

" Leave me here," she said. 

She drew herself from their support and sank 
heavily and wearily on the marble rim of the 
pool. 

" Bring me my cloak." 

They fetched it from a seat among the laurels ; 
it was white velvet, unwieldy with silver and 
crimson embroidery. 

Lucrezia drew it round her shoulders with a 

little shudder. 

'' Leave me here," she repeated. 

They moved obediently across the soft grass 
and disappeared up the laurel-shaded steps that 
led to the terraces before the high-built palace. 

The Duchess lifted her stiff fingers, that were 
rendered almost useless by the load of gems on 
them, to her breast. 

Trails of pink vapour, mere wraiths of clouds 
began to float about the west ; the long Italian 
twilight had fallen. 

A young man parted the bushes and stepped 
on to the grass ; he carried a lute slung by a red 

82 



TWILIGHT 

ribbon across his violet jacket; he moved deli- 
cately, as if reverent of the great beauty of the 
hour. 

Lucrezia turned her head and watched him 

with weary eyes. 

He came lightly nearer, not seeing her. A 
flock of homing doves passed over his head ; 
he swung on his heel to look at them and the 
reluctantly departing sunshine was golden on his 
upturned face. 

Lucrezia still watched him, intently, narrowly ; 
he came nearer again, saw her, and paused in 
confusion, pulHng off his black velvet cap. 

" Come here," she said in a chill, hoarse voice. 
He obeyed with an exquisite swiftness and fell 
on one knee before her ; his dropped hand touched 
the ground a pace beyond the furthest-flung edge 
of her gown. 

*' Who are you ? " she asked. 
" Ormfredo Orsini, one of the Duke's gentle- 
men, Madonna," he answered. 

He looked at her frankly surprised to see her 
alone in the garden at the turn of the day. He 
was used to see her surrounded by her poets, her 
courtiers, her women ; she was the goddess of a 
cultured court and persistently worshipped. 

" One of the Orsini," she said. " Get up from 
your knees." 

He thought she was thinking of her degraded 
lineage, of the bad, bad blood in her veins. As 
he rose he considered these things for the first 
time. She had lived decorously at Ferrara for 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

twenty-one years, nearly the whole of his life- 
time ; but he had heard tales, though he had never 
dwelt on them. 

*' You look as if you were afraid of me " 

*' Afraid of you — I, Madonna ? " 

" Sit down," she said. 

He seated himseK on the marble rim and 
stared at her ; his fresh face wore a puzzled 
expression. 

" What do you want of me, Madonna V he 
asked. 

" Ahe ! " she cried. *' How very young you 
are, Orsini ! " 

Her eyes flickered over him impatiently, greedily ; 
the twilight was beginning to fall over her, a merci- 
ful veil ; but he saw her for the first time as an 
old woman. Slightly he drew back, and his lute 
touched the marble rim as he moved, and the 
strings jangled. 

" When I was your age," she said, " I had 
been betrothed to one man and married to another, 
and soon I was wedded to a third. I have forgotten 
all of them." 

" You have been so long our lady here," he 
answered. "You may well have forgotten the 
world, Madonna, beyond Ferrara." 

" You are a Roman ? " 

" Yes, Madonna." 

She put out her right hand and clasped his arm. 

" Oh, for an hour of Rome ! — in the old days ! " 

Her whole face, with its artificial beauty and 
undisguisable look of age, was close to his ; he 

84 



TWILIGHT 

felt the sense of her as the sense of something 
evil. 

She was no longer the honoured Duchess of Fer- 
rara, but Lucrezia, the Borgia's lure, Cesare's sister, 
Alessandro's daughter, the heroine of a thousand 
orgies, the inspiration of a hundred crimes. 

The force with which this feeling came over 
him made him shiver ; he shrank beneath her hand. 

" Have you heard things of me ? " she asked 
in a piercing voice. 

" There is no one in Italy who has not heard 
of you, Madonna." 

" That is no answer, Orsini. And I do not 
want your barren flatteries." 

" You are the Duke's wife," he said, " and I 
am the servant of the Duke." 

" Does that mean that you must lie to me ? " 

She leant even nearer to him ; her whitened 
chin, circled by the stiff goldwork of her collar, 
touched his shoulder. 

" Tell me I am beautiful," she said. " I must 
hear that once more — from young lips." 

" You are beautiful. Madonna." 

She moved back and her eyes flared. 

'' Did I not say I would not have your flat- 
teries ? " 

" What, then, was your meaning ? " 

" Ten years ago you would not have asked ; 
no man would have asked. I am old. Lucrezia 
old ! — ah, Gods above ! " 

" You are beautiful," he repeated. "' But how 
should I dare to touch you with my mouth ? " 

85 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" You would have dared, if you had thought 
me desirable," she answered hoarsely. " You 
cannot guess how beautiful I was — before you were 
born, Orsini." 

He felt a sudden pity for her ; the glamour 
of her fame clung round her and gilded her. Was 
not this a woman who had been the fairest in Italy 
seated beside him ? 

He raised her hand and kissed the palm, the 
only part that was not hidden with jewels. 

" You are sorry for me," she said. 

Orsini started at her quick reading of his 
thoughts. 

" I am the last of my family," she added. 
" And sick. Did you know that I was sick, 
Orsini ? " 

" Nay, Madonna." 

" For weeks I have been sick. And wearying 
for Rome." 

*' Rome," he ventured, " is different now, 
Madonna." 

'' Ahe ! " she wailed. " And I am different 
also." 

Her hand lay on his knee ; he looked at it and 
wondered if the things he had heard of her were 
true. She had been the beloved child of her 
father, the old Pope, rotten with bitter wickedness ; 
she had been the friend of her brother, the dreadful 
Cesare — her other brother, Francesco, and her second 
husband — was it not supposed that she knew how 
both had died ? 

But for twenty-one years she had lived in 
86 



A 



TWILIGHT 

Ferrara, patroness of poet and painter, companion 
of such as the courteous gentle Venetian, Pietro 
Bembo. 

And Alfonso d'Este, her husband, had found 
no fault with her ; as far as the world could see, 
there had been no fault to find. 

Ormfredo Orsini stared at the hand sparkHng 
on his knee and wondered. 

" Suppose that I was to make you my father 
confessor ? " she said. The white mantle had 
fallen apart and the bosom of her gown glittered, 
even in the twilight. 

" What sins have you to confess, Madonna ? " 
he questioned. 

She peered at him sideways. 

" A Pope's daughter should not be afraid of 
the Judgment of God," she answered. " And I 
am not. I shall relate my sins at the bar of Heaven 
and say I have repented— Ah e— if I was young 
again ! " 

" Your Highness has enjoyed the world," said 

Orsini. 

*'Yea, the sun," she replied, "but not the 
twilight." 

" The twilight ? " 

" It has been twilight now for many years," 
she said, *' ever since I came to Ferrara." 

The moon was rising behind the cypress trees, 
a slip of glowing light. Lucrezia took her chin 
in her hand and stared before her ; a soft breeze 
stirred the tall reeds in the pool behind her and 
gently ruffled the surface of the water. 

87 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

The breath of the night-smelling flowers pierced 
the slumbrous air ; the palace showed a faint 
shape, a marvellous tint ; remote it looked and 
uncertain in outline. 

Lucrezia was motionless ; her garments were 
dim, yet glittering, her face a blur ; she seemed 
the ruin of beauty and graciousness, a fair thing 
dropped suddenly into decay. 

Orsini rose and stepped away from her ; the 
perfume of her unguents offended him. He found 
something horrible in the memory of former 
allurement that clung to her ; ghosts seemed to 
crowd round her and pluck at her, like fierce 
birds at carrion. 

He caught the glitter of her eyes through the 
dusk ; she was surely evil, bad to the inmost 
core of her heart ; her stale beauty reeked of dead 
abomination. . . . Why had he never noticed it 
before ? 

The ready wit of his rank and blood failed 
him ; he turned away towards the cypress trees. 

The Duchess made no attempt to detain him ; 
she did not move from her crouching, watchful 
attitude. 

When he reached the belt of laurels he looked 
back and saw her dark shape still against the 
waters of the pool that were beginning to be 
touched with the argent glimmer of the rising 
moon. He hurried on, continually catching the 
strings of his lute against the boughs of the flower- 
ing shrubs ; he tried to laugh at himself for being 
afraid of an old, sick woman ; he tried to ridicule 



TWILIGHT 

himself for believing that the admired Duchess, 
for so long a decorous great lady, could in truth be 
a creature of evil. 

But the conviction flashed into his heart was 
too deep to be uprooted. 

She had not spoken to him like a Duchess of 
Ferrara, but rather as the wanton Spaniard whose 
excesses had bewildered and sickened Eome. 

A notable misgiving was upon him ; he had 
heard great men praise her, Ludovico Ariosto, 
Cardinal Ippolito's secretary and the noble Venetian 
Bembo ; he had himself admired her remote and 
refined splendour. Yet, because of these few 
moments of close talk with her, because of a near 
gaze into her face, he felt that she was something 
horrible, the poisoned offshoot of a bad race. 

He thought that there was death on her glisten- 
ing painted lips, and that if he had kissed them he 
would have died, as so many of her lovers were 
reputed to have died. 

He parted the cool leaves and blossoms and 
came on to the borders of a lake that lay placid 
under the darkling sky. 

It was very lonely ; bats twinkled past with a 
black flap of wings ; the moon had burnt the 
heavens clear of stars ; her pure light began to fill 
the dusk. Orsini moved softly, with no comfort 
in his heart. 

The stillness was intense ; he could hear his 
own footfall, the soft leather on the soft grass. 
He looked up and down the silence of the lake. 

Then suddenly he glanced over his shoulder. 
89 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

Lucrezia Borgia was standing close behind him ; 
when he turned her face looked straight into his. 

He moaned with terror and stood rigid ; awful 
it seemed to him that she should track him so 
stealthily and be so near to him in this silence 
and he never know of her presence. 

" Eh, Madonna ! " he said. 

" Eh, Orsini," she answered in a thin voice, 
and at the sound of it he stepped away, till his foot 
was almost in the lake. 

His unwarrantable horror of her increased, as 
he found that the glowing twihght had confused 
him ; for, whereas at first he had thought she was 
the same as when he had left her seated by the 
pool, royal in dress and bearing, he saw now that 
she was leaning on a stick, that her figure had 
fallen together, that her face was yellow as a 
church candle, and that her head was bound with 
plasters, from the under edge of which her eyes 
twinkled, small and lurid. 

She wore a loose gown of scarlet brocade that 
hung open on her arms that showed lean and dry ; 
the round bones at her wrist gleamed white under 
the tight skin, and she wore no rings. 

** Madonna, you are ill," muttered Ormfredo 
Orsini. He wondered how long he had been 
wandering in the garden. 

" Very ill," she said. " But talk to me of Rome. 
You are the only Roman at the Court, Orsini." 

" Madonna, I know nothing of Rome," he 
answered, " save our palace there and sundry 

streets " 

90 



TWILIGHT 

She raised one hand from the stick and clutched 
his arm. 

" Will you hear me confess ? " she asked. 
" All my beautiful sins that I cannot tell the priest ? 
All we did in those days of youth before this 
dimness at Ferrara ? " 

" Confess to God," he answered, trembling 
violently. 

Lucrezia drew nearer. 

" All the secrets Cesare taught me," she 
whispered. " Shall I make you heir to them ? " 

" Christ save me," he said, " from the Duke of 
Valentinois' secrets ! " 

" Who taught you to fear my family 1 " she 
questioned with a cunning accent. " Will you 
hear how the Pope feasted with his Hebes and 
Ganymedes ? Will you hear how we lived in the 
Vatican ? " 

Orsini tried to shake her arm off ; anger rose 
to equal his fear. 

" Weed without root or flower, fruitless useless- 
ness ! " he said hoarsely. " Let me free of your 
spells ! " 

She loosed his arm and seemed to recede from 
him without movement ; the plasters round her 
head showed ghastly white, and he saw all the 
wrinkles round her drooped lips and the bleached 
ugliness of her bare throat. 

" Will you not hear of Rome ? " she insisted 
in a wailing whisper. He fled from her, crashing 
through the bushes. 

Swiftly and desperately he ran across the lawns 
91 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

and groves, up the winding steps to the terraces 
before the palace, beating the twilight with his 
outstretched hands as if it was an obstacle in his 
his way. 

Stumbling and breathless, he gained the painted 
corridors that were lit with a hasty blaze of wax 
light. Women were running to and fro, and he saw a 
priest carrying the Holy Eucharist cross a distant 
door. 

One of these women he stopped. 

*' The Duchess " he began, panting. 

She laid her finger on her lip. 

*' They carried her in from the garden an hour 
ago ; they bled and plastered her, but she died — 
before she could swallow the wafer — (hush ! she 
was not thinking of holy things, Orsini !) — ten 
minutes ago " 



92 



THE CAMP OUTSIDE NAMUR 
Don Juan of Austria 

" Sa Majeste ne resout rien ; du moins, on me tient ignorant de 
ses intentions. Je pousse des cris, mais en vain. II est clair qu'on 
nous laisse ici pour y languir jusqu'^ notre dernier soupir." 

Don Juan to Mendoza, September IQtJi, 1578, 
from " The Camp " outside Namur, 

" No3 vies sont en jeu et tout que nous demandons, c'est de les 
perdre aveo honneur." 

Don Juan to Philip II., September 20th, 1578, 
from "The Camp" outside Namur, 

The Imperial Army, composed of Germans, 
Walloons and Spanish regiments, was encamped 
outside Namur, at the juncture of the Sambre and 
Meuse, where Charles V. had been entrenched 
when pressed by the forces of Henri II. 

The Commander of the Army was the son of 
Charles V., Don Juan of Austria, the hero of 
Christendom armed against the infidel, the victor 
of Lepanto, the conqueror of Tunis, blessed by 
the Pope, a brilHant name in Europe, half-brother 
of the great King Philip and son of a servant 
girl, near the throne, of the blood royal, but barred 
for ever from it, a prince yet linked with peasants ; 
he had blazed very brightly over Europe, the King 

93 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

had flattered him, had caressed him and used 
him. 

By the King's favour he had swept over Italy, 
Sicily, Africa, a conqueror, almost within touch of 
a throne ; by the King's favour he had been sent to 
crush the rebel heretics who were rising against 
the might of Spain in the Low Countries. 

And now the King was silent ; it seemed as if 
he meant to abandon Don Juan. Antonio Perez 
was always at the King's ear, and he hated Don 
Juan; Escovedo, the Prince's Secretary and 
favourite, was assassinated in the streets of Madrid 
by order of Perez. 

When Don Juan heard this news he thought 
that there was no better end preparing for him 
and that Perez meant his rum ; the King did not 
answer his letters, and his glory broke like a 
bubble. 

He had been too great, too beloved, too popular ; 

Philip tolerated no rivals. 

And now he began to be unfortunate ; the 
Prince William of Orange, one time page to Don 
Juan's father and now the Captain of Heretics, 
marched against him with a powerful army; 
the Due D'Anjou joined the cause of the rebels, 
and the Queen of England, Elizabeth Tudor, at 
last decided to send succours to the rebellious 
provinces. 

The forces met ; the day of Rynemants was 
almost a defeat for Don Juan. 

A haunted, hunted feeling began to possess 
him ; in the brilliant south everything had been 

H 



THE CAMP OUTSIDE NAMUR 

right with him ; here, in the cursed Low Countries, 
every step he took seemed a step nearer his 
grave. 

The death of Escovedo weighed on him day 
and night. 

And the King would not write. 

Don Juan began to fear and hate his second- 
in-command, the Prince of Parma, Alessandro 
Farnese, a man of his own age, but his nephew, 
for Farnese's mother was Margaret, daughter of 
Charles V. 

This man was in the confidence of the King ; 
Don Juan knew and feared that fact. He began 
to dread the sight of the dark Italian face ; the 
figure of Farnese seemed to him like that of a 
spy — or executioner. 

When he had fought Boussu at Pynemants he 
had been ill ; when he had held the useless con- 
ference with the English envoys he had scarcely 
been able to hold himself on his horse, and when 
he returned to the camp on the heights of 
Bouges outside Namur he fell to his knees as he 
dismounted and could not rise for the weight of 
his armour. 

They carried him to the quarter of the regiment 
of Figueroa and lodged him in a pigeon-house or 
place for fowls belonging to a Flemish farm the 
Spanish guns had demolished. 

No one knew what illness ailed him ; some 
spoke of the plague, some of the Dutch fever, 
others said he had worn himself out with the 
fatigues of war and the delights of Italy. 

95 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

The fever increased on him ; he wrote to 
Mendoza, the Spanish agent at Genoa ; he wrote 
to Andrea D'Aria, his companion in arms of 
Lepanto ; he wrote to the King. But with little 
hope, for he felt himself abandoned. 

Monseigneur Frangois D'Anjou, brother of the 
King of France, was at Mons and had taken on 
himself the title of Defender of the Low Countries 
against the Spanish Tyranny; Don Juan had 
only eighteen thousand men, of which six thousand 
were Spanish, old, tried troops, and the rest merely 
Walloon and German mercenaries of doubtful 
loyalty. 

They had scarcely any artillery and but little 
powder. 

The plague appeared in the camp, numbers of 
the small army sickened and died. 

There came news that the Enghsh were sailing 
for Flushing and that WilUam of Orange was 
advancing on Namur. 

Don Juan of Austria lay in the pigeon-house, 
prostrate with fever, sad and silent. 

It was the end of September ; day after day 
was sunny, with a honey-coloured peaceful light 
resting on the camp, on the two rivers, on the 
fortifications of Namur; the windmills stood 
motionless in the stagnant air ; the few willows 
by the river turned from grey-green to dull amber 
and shook their long leaves on the soft, muddy 
bank ; the horizon was veiled in mist, yellow, 
soft and mournful ; at night the moon rose pale 
gold through languid dusky vapours; in the 

96 



THE CAMP OUTSIDE NAMUR 

morning the sun rose, glimmering through melan- 
choly mists, and above the camp hung, day and 
night, the fumes of the plague, of fever, the exhala- 
tions of decay and sickness, the close odours of 
death. 

Juan of Austria loathed this place as passionately 
as he had loved Naples and Sicily ; the plain with 
the two rivers embracing the frowning town of 
Namur seemed to him hateful as some roadway 
to Hell ; he dreaded the warm moist nights, the 
long misty days, the veiled Northern skies, the 
flat, distant melancholy horizon, and he hated these 
things more because he sometimes felt that he 
would never see any other skies or fields but these, 
never see any moon or sun rise over any town 
but this high battlemented fortress of Namur. 

He was trapped, abandoned, forgotten ; the 
hero of Lepanto, the conqueror of Tunis, was left 
to die miserably in this vile swamp — forsaken ! 

He resolved, when the fever left his mind clear, 
that he would not die, that he would live to face 
Philip in the Escurial and demand an account 
for this — and for other things. 

On September 28th he confessed, on the 28th 
he received the communion. 

His confessor, Francisco Orantes, told him that 
he was dying, but he laughed that away. 

In the evening of that day he fell into a delirium 
and for two days tossed unconscious, in great 
torments, talking continually of wars, of soldiers, 
of conquests and arms. 

On the first of October the fever abated and 
97 n 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

lie seemed much recovered ; lie fell into a little 
sleep about the dawn, and when it was fully light 
he woke and sent for the Prince of Parma. 

When that general came, Juan of Austria 
raised himself on his elbow and looked at him 
with a searching kind of eagerness, and Farnese 
stood arrested, in the poor doorway, glaring at 
the sick man. 

The pigeon-house, in which Don Juan lay, was 
the size of a small tent, of clay with niches in the 
walls for the birds ; part of the tiled roof and a 
portion of one wall had gone, and through this the 
early, misty Northern sunlight streamed, for the 
canvas that had been dragged over the aperture 
was drawn away to admit the air. 

On the rough mud floor a carpet of arras had 
been flung ; there were a couple of camp chairs 
of steel and leather ; a pile of armour, helmet, 
greaves, cuirass, cruises, vambraces, damascened 
in black and gold and hung with scarlet straps, 
was in one corner ; above swung a lantern and a 
crucifix. 

Facing the entrance the Emperor's son lay 
on a pile of rich cloaks and garments embroidered 
with a thousand colours in a thousand shapes of 
fantasy ; two cloth of gold cushions served to 
support his head and gleamed incongruously 
against the dull clay wall. 

He was himself swathed to the breast in a 
mantle of black and orange, and covering his 
lower limbs was a robe of crimson samite lined with 
fox's fur. 

98 



THE CAMP OUTSIDE NAMUR 

The fine ruffled shirt he wore had been torn in 
his delirious struggles and showed his throat and 
the gaunt lines of his shoulders. 

His face was colourless with the pure pallor 
of a blonde complexion, and his long, pale waving 
hair clung to his damp forehead and hung dishevelled 
either side of his hollow cheeks ; his large grey 
eyes, whose usual expression was so joyous, careless 
and ardent, now shone with the brilliancy of fever 
and were sunk and shadowed beneath with the 
bluish tinge that stained his close-drawn lips. 

His right hand, on which sparkled an emerald 
ring, clutched at the linen over his heart ; the 
other was taut on the ground with the effort of 
supporting his body. 

In the niche above him a solitary white pigeon 
sat contented and surveyed his invaded home. 

Alessandro Farnese, tall and very slender, 
dark-haired, from head to foot in black save for 
a great chain of linked gold and jewels over his 
velvet doublet, let the improvised curtain fall 
into place over the doorway and stood leaning 
against the wall, never moving his sombre eyes from 
the Prince whose gleaming glance fiercely returned 
the scrutiny. 

" Your Highness is a whole man to-day," he 
said ; his voice was smooth, low, carefully trained 
like his expression and his gestures ; Philip's 
favourites always had this quiet way. 

" Whether I shall get well or no I cannot tell," 
answered Don Juan hoarsely. " But this I know — 
that His Majesty hath forsaken me." 

d9 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

The Prince of Parma took his right elbow in 
his left hand and put his right hand to his pointed 
chin. 

" You speak too plainly, senor," he said. His 
subtle mind disliked boldness of speech and action ; 
he had always been annoyed by these qualities in 
Don Juan. 

" I have done with pretences," answered the 
Prince. " I think I must be dying, for I care very 
little what happens on earth— yet I have some 

curiosity ; it is because of that I sent for you " 

he paused gathering his strength. "Why hath 
the King forsaken me ? " he asked intensely. 

" Even if this were so," said Alessandro Farnese, 
" how should I know it ? " 

" It is so and you know it," replied Don Juan. 
*' The King hath cast me down, and he is putting 
you in my place." 

The Prince of Parma lifted his dark, arched 

brows. 

" The mind of your Highness is still bemused 
by your sickness," he answered soothingly. " Any 
hour may bring a post from Madrid." 

Don Juan dropped from his elbow, and his 
head sank on the gold brocade cushions. 

'*I was lost when they killed Escovedo," he 
muttered ; " there went my last friend. It would 
have been more honourable to die on the battle- 
field " 

Farnese answered smoothly — 

" Your Highness will win many battles yet." 

The Emperor's son smiled up at him. 
100 



THE CAMP OUTSIDE NAMUR 

" What did Philip pay you to mislead me ? " 
he asked. 

The Italian's shallow cheek flushed faintly, and 
a little quiver, it might be of rage or fear, ran 
through his sensitive frame. 

" The fever returns on you, senor," he said 
coldly. 

Again Don Juan dragged himself into a sitting 
posture. 

" No," he answered with a terrible air, " my 
mind is very clear. I see what I have been all 
my life. Philip's plaything — no more. And I 
dreamt to be a King ! He used me till I climbed 
too high and then cast me away. And you, senor, 
are to take my place. It was never meant that 
I should leave the Low Countries. It was never 
meant that I should return again a victor to 
Madrid — as servant and as brother I have served 
the King well, and in his own fashion he hath 
rewarded me." 

He put his hands before his face and a shudder 
went through his body, for in that moment he 
thought of all the glorious past that had ended 
so suddenly and so terribly. 

*' I suffer ! " he moaned. " Jesu and Maria, 
I suffer ! " 

He fell prostrate, face downwards, on the 
tumbled couch, and the strengthening sunlight 
played with a mocking brilHance on the scattered 
strands of his fair hair. 

The Prince of Parma lifted the curtain before 
the door and spoke to one of his servants who 

101 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

waited outside, then crossed and knelt beside his 
general. 

" Prince," he said in a low tone, " the fever has 
turned your mind " 

Juan raised his head. 

" I am no prince," he answered. " I never was 
— but what I am your mother is, Farnese — you 
and I alike are tainted." 

A sickly pallor crept into the Italian's cheek ; 
he clasped his fingers together as if he prayed for 
patience. 

" But you are too crafty to be deceived as I 
was," resumed Don Juan faintly. " You would 
never dream as I dreamt of being ' Infante ' of 
Spain, of being a King ! Therefore Philip spares 
you, for you are a useful man, Farnese, and puts 
his foot on me because I dared too high — ^but we 
are both — his puppets." 

The Prince of Parma clenched his hands till 
the knuckles showed white through the dark skin. 

*' You — always — hated — me," gasped Don Juan. 

" Are you in pain 1 " asked Farnese gently. 

'' In the torments of Hell," answered the sick 
man with a ghostly smile ; '* there is fire eating 
my heart, my blood, my brains." 

The Prince of Parma's face changed in an 
extraordinary fashion ; it was a slight change, 
yet one that transformed his expression into that 
of utter and satisfied cruelty. 

But Don Juan kept his eyes closed, and did 
not notice this look bending over him. 

Farnese spoke, and his voice was still very gentle. 
102 



THE CAMP OUTSIDE NAMUR 

" Will your Highness drink this potion ? " 

The Prince lifted his burning lids and saw his 
page advancing with a goblet of rock crystal, in 
which a pale gold liquid floated. 

The boy gave this to the kneehng Farnese, 
who took it between his long, dark, capable hands. 

" This draught has often soothed your High- 
ness," he said. 

Don Juan dragged himself to a sitting posture ; 
as he moved such a weak giddiness seized him 
that the clay walls, the rift of sky and the figure 
of Farnese swung round him like reflections in 
troubled water. 

He set his teeth and put out his hot hands for 
the goblet ; as he drank a sweet languor and a 
grateful cessation of pain swept over him ; he 
drained the last drop and gave a little sigh as 
Farnese took the shining cup from his feeble grasp. 

As he sank back on his cushions he noticed 
that a drop of the liquid had fallen on the brocade 
cushion, and lay there like an amber bead holding 
a spark of sunlight. 

The Prince of Parma rose silently, and beckon- 
ing to the page, left the sick man alone. 

An exquisite lassitude crept over Don Juan ; 
his limbs relaxed, his breath came easily, he became 
certain that there were long years of glorious and 
pleasant life before him ; it was only necessary 
for him to regain his health — to defeat the heretics 
and return to Spain to confound that villain 
Perez. . . . 

He was slipping out of consciousness ; the blue 
103 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

sea of Italy began to rise before his eyes — an 
endless expanse of celestial colour over which 
sailed the galleys of Spain, Genoa and Venice 
bearing down on the infidel fleet. 

The victor of Lepanto quivered with joy ; he 
thought he was back in Naples, in Sicily ; the 
warm scent of a thousand flowers floated round 
the rose and amber pillars of the heathen temples, 
and from the high windows of gold and painted 
palaces dark-eyed women looked, leaning on folds 
of glimmering tapestry and twisting wreaths of 
roses and laurels in gemmed fingers. 

He saw the myrtle with the frail bridal blossoms, 
he saw the vineyards with the opulent grapes, he 
saw ladies in dresses stiff with jewels and heavy 
sleeves slipping from polished shoulders, he saw 
peasant girls with flushed faces and dusky hair. . . . 

Then these pictures faded ; he was in the dark 
silence of the Escurial ; his terrible brother was 
speaking to him, caressing him ; then Perez pulled 
a curtain back, and he saw his confidant Escovedo, 
lying mangled on a bier, bloody, with a fearful face. 

Don Juan moaned and opened his eyes ; he was 
light-headed ; he beat his hands on the cushions. 

" Escovedo ! " he muttered. " Escovedo ! " 

The pigeon above, startled by his sudden 
movement, flew out over his head and away into 
freedom through the broken wall. 

Juan of Austria shivered and blenched before 
the swift flash of the white wings as if an angel 
had passed him. 

*' I am a great sinner," he said with trembling 
104 



THE CAMP OUTSIDE NAMUR 

lips. He remembered how the Pope had embraced 
and blessed him after Lepanto ; he hoped that, 
in case he died, God would remember it too, and 
how he had slain the infidel on the coast of Africa. 
His mind cleared, he looked round for Farnese, he 
called his secretary, his page, but no one came. 

He lay quite still, thinking now of the great 
ambition, the great chimera of his life, the pas- 
sionate desire to be recognised as royal, as a Prince, 
to one day be a King. 

He had dreamt that he might be King of 
many countries, even King of England with Marie 
Stewart for wife, but he had never attained even 
recognition as a Prince of Spain. 

All Philip's promises, all Philip's flatteries 
had amounted to nothing. While he was useful 
he was caressed ; when he grew too great he was 
forsaken, left without arms, without money, with- 
out men, left with Farnese watching him night 
and day. 

And they had killed the man he loved, his 
friend, his confidant Escovedo. 

That fact rose up horrid, insistent, burning 
his heart with rage. 

He could not forgive Perez ; he could not 
forgive Philip. 

In discomfort of mind and body he tossed 
from side to side. One of the gold cushions 
slipped from beneath him, and he was too weak 
to recover it ; he lay with his eyes vacantly on 
it, and presently sat up with sudden strength 
and pointed at it with a quivering finger. 

105 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

On the gold brocade was a round black hole 
where the stuff had been burnt away. 

Don Juan began to laugh ; he remembered 
the yellow drop of liquid that had gleamed on 
the rich fabric ; he shouted for some one to 
come. 

There was no answer ; he supposed that they, 
thinking he suffered from the plague, would not 
through fear approach him. 

He waited ; his attention wandered from the 
cushion ; he heard the trumpets without and 
smiled. 

Presently a party of horsemen galloped past ; 
he could catch a glimpse of them through the 
aperture in the wall ; one carried his flag — a 
cross on the royal standard with the proud legend : 
" In hoc haereticos signo vici Turcos ; in hoc 
signo vincam haereticos." The heavy silk folds 
recalled these words to the Prince's mind ; he 
thought of his success at Gembloux. 

** I could defeat them now," he murmured, 
'' if I was — on horseback — with a thousand men — 
behind me " 

The Lowland sun was creeping across the floor 
and glimmering in the armour in the corner, 
showing the dints and marks in it, the worn straps, 
the beautiful gold inlay and the long pure white 
plumes floating above the helmet. 

Juan of Austria shivered at the sight of the 
pale sky, the pale sunlight ; he longed passionately 
for the South, for all the purple heat, the violet 
shade, the soft hours of noonday silence in a marble 

106 



THE CAMP OUTSIDE NAMUR 

chamber overlooking the sea, the glossy darkness 
of laurel and ilex. 

" I will not die here," he said in his throat. 

Presently his confessor came, a slow-footed 
priest, and asked him if he would not make his will. 

*' No, for I have nothing to leave," he answered, 
*' so I am spared that trouble." 

Francisco Orantes then asked if he would have 
the canvas drawn over the broken roof and wall, 
for the sun was creeping very near his face. 

He answered yes, and it was done ; the barn 
was now only lit by the glimmer from the one 
small window. 

" Father, I am not dying," said Don Juan. 
** When I die it will be in Spain or Italy ; tell the 
King so — tell him I know that he wants me dead — 
but that I will not die like this." 

The priest, seeing he was out of his wits, made 
no answer, but approached and felt his wrist 
and brow. 

" Poison," said Don Juan rapidty. ** Poison 
— why not the sword — as with Escovedo ? I have 
made my peace with heaven — but when shall 
Philip clear himself before God ? " 

The priest moved away silently as he had come ; 
the sick man lay staring at the partial darkness ; 
his blood was flaming with a returning agony. 

"Philip!" he cried. "Philip! Will you 
bury me in the Escurial ? H I die will you put 
me next my father ? My father as well as yours, 
Philip ! Hold my hand, some one — are you all 
afraid ? This is not the plague. I have watched 

107 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

the heretics burning — I am burning now — I shall 
not go to Hell ; I am absolved. Who will absolve 
Philip ? Give me a little ease " 

The priest stood motionless beside the entrance, 
watching him ; Juan dropped into silence, and 
then Francisco Orantes came again to his side 
and gazed as intently as the dim light allowed 
into the young, distorted and beautiful face. 

The Prince was unconscious ; the priest's 
bloodless hand crept gently to his heart, which 
still beat, though reluctantly and faintly. 

Fames e entered. 

'' He sleeps," said Francisco Orantes. 

The Prince of Parma made no answer ; a 
slight convulsion shook him, and his face was 
swept with a look of limitless pride and ambition 
which distorted his fine features hideously. 

The priest glanced up at him and shrunk 
away. 

" This seems a foul end for one who loved life 
so," he muttered. 

Farnese fingered his long gemmed chain. 

" You serve Philip," he answered coldly. 

Don Juan struggled back to consciousness, 
opened his eyes and looked up at the two bending 
over him ; a sensation that he had never known 
before in all his life overcame him — a sensation 
of wild fear. 

He fought with his weakness and dragged 
himself up. 

" Is there no one to help me ? " he implored. 
-* To save me from Phihp and Philip's men 1 

108 



THE CAMP OUTSIDE NAMUR 

Jesu whom I served in Africa do not let me die 
this way ! " 

Farnese leant swiftly down and caught the 
Prince by the shoulder. 

''Hush!" he said, "Hush!" and forced 
him gently back into the cushions. 

Juan resisted him with all his feeble strength, 
his eyes glittering with terror. 

" You are murdering me as Carlos was murdered 
— and Escovedo," his voice was hoarse, broken, 
but tense with fear, " as you will be murdered 
when Philip is weary of you, I do not want to 
die — I — will — ^not " 

" Hush ! " said Farnese again. 

Juan dragged away from him and crouched 
back against the wall. 

" I leave you heir," he panted, " to all my 
honours, all my commands. Philip meant you 
as my successor. I leave you heir to my death 
of loneliness and exile. When did one of Philip's 
servants escape this reward 1 " 

The priest shivered and his figure bowed 
together, but Farnese listened patiently like a 
man waiting for the cessation of something that 
soon must end. 

The Prince's fear rose and swelled to a stronger 
passion, hate. 

He thought that he saw in these two instru- 
ments of the King a symbol of the two things 
that had dogged his glory all his life, the powerful 
cruelty of his brother that had used his gifts, 
his successes, his popularity for his own ends, 

109 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

lured him with the promise of rewards and always 
withheld them, and the opinion of the world that 
the degradation of his mother equalled the splendour 
of his father and would always prevent him taking 
that last step into royal rank. 

It had prevented him ; he saw that now, he saw 
how hopeless his ambition had been from the 
first. . . . 

" If I had my life again I would not serve 
Philip," he muttered. 

Then pain began to seize and grip him, and he 
became unconscious of everything save the physical 
agony ; he fell on his face and clutched the rich 
mantles on which he lay, groaned and shrieked in 
blasphemous ravings. 

" He hath not much fortitude after all," said 
Farnese, who had looked on suffering so often 
that no anguish could move him ; his cold eyes 
had many times rested on men and women flaming 
at the stake with the same expression of cruel 
indifference with which they now rested on this 
man of his own blood, who had served his turn 
and was no longer useful to the policies of Spain. 

*' How long will this last ? " asked the priest. 

" I cannot tell," ansvv^ered the Prince of Parma. 
" He must have great strength." 

" He had until he used it in the delights of 
Italy," said Francisco Orantes. '' Such a life as 
his, senor, does not make for old age " 

" Escovedo ! Escovedo ! " moaned Don Juan. 
" Help me ! Succour me ! I am burning — burning 
to the bone, the marrow ! Jesu ! J^su and Maria ! ' ' 

110 



THE CAMP OUTSIDE NAMUR 

'* Ay, pray for your sins," remarked Farnese 
sombrely, " or you will go to light the flames that 
bm:n to all eternity." 

" Nay, senor," said the priest ; " he confessed 
and received absolution." 

" Who shall absolve Philip ? " murmured Don 
Juan, who had caught the sentence. " I wish I 
had not betrayed Don Carlos. How awful it is 
to die ! " 

Drops of sweat stood out on his forehead, and 
his fingers trembled on the brocade covering him. 

" The war," he whispered, " the war." 

He thought of the great armies sweeping to 
and fro over the Low Countries, of all the toss and 
turmoil of Europe through which he had moved 
so gaily, so splendidly, of the infidel smitten in 
Africa ; he did not think of his childhood at all. 
Life seemed to have begun for him on the day on 
which he had first met the King in the green 
forest glade. 

" Pray," urged the priest, " pray, senor." 

He shook his head feebly ; he was not at all 
afraid of God — only of Phihp. Besides, he did 
not mean to die. 

The dreadful pain was lessening in his veins ; 
he turned over on his side and looked up at Farnese. 

" Where shall we put your body when your 
soul has left us ? " asked the priest. 

The sick man's eyes gleamed. 

"The Escurial," he muttered. "Philip, re- 
membering Lepanto might give me that — if not, 
then Our Lady of Montserrat — but I am not 

111 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

dying," he added. " My life is not finished — you 
must see that — my life is — not — finished." 

An extraordinary feeling of peace came over 
him ; he wondered at it and closed his eyes ; he 
again saw the blue Sicilian seas encompassing 
him and heard their lapping waves in his ears. 

*' I will sleep now," he thought, " and when I 
wake I will plan a victory — life is so long and I 
am so young " 

He smiled, for all the agony had ceased, and 
he was no longer conscious of his body ; his head 
sank to one side so that his face was turned towards 
the wall. . . . 

Francisco Orantes rose from his knees. 

'' He died very gently," he said ; " his soul 
passed as lightly as a bird to the bough." 

Farnese made the sign of the cross, and his 
figm^e dilated with pride, ambition and power ; 
he went to the armour in the corner and picked 
up the dead man's baton of command. 

Philip buried his brother in the Escurial near 
the great Emperor who was their father. 



ji: 



THE POLANDER 

The Polander was a very innocent fellow who 
came out of Germany to enter the service of my 
lord Conningsmarke, a Gentleman of a great 
Quahty at this moment in London. 

He had taught the Polander some while ago 
at the instance of Captain Vratz, who was an old 
retainer of his, and who gave this youth a good 
character, especially for dressing Horses after the 
German Fashion. The Polander knew nothing 
of my lord Count Conningsmarke, and nothing 
about England, for he was very simple and ignorant, 
being but of Peasant birth, but the Captain he 
knew and loved, for this man had brought him 
out of Evil Days in Poland, and his heart held 
little else but a deep Affection for this Captain 
Vratz. 

On a Friday he came to London and inquired 
for the Governor of my Lord at the Academy of 
M. Flaubert and this gentleman sent for the Count's 
Secretary ; and there the Polander lay on Saturday 
night feehng very strange in this new City and 
constantly praying that he might meet with Captain 
Vratz soon, who had been to him such a Benefactor. 

The next day being the 11th of February and 
113 I 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

bitter cold, Mr. Hanson, the Governor of my Lords, 
the young Counts of Conningsmarke, came to the 
Polander and bid him make ready to be carried 
to the Lodging of my Lord Charles. 

This Governor seemed in a great Confusion of 
mind ; he went over words twice when he spoke, 
which was in the German language (for the Polander 
knew not English) and the colour was up and down 
in his Face and his hands a-tremble. 

The Polander stood before him, very tall and 
strong and humble, with his blue eyes clouded 
with Bewilderment and Disappointment; for he 
hoped he would be taken to Captain Vratz, and 
presently dared to say as much, very timidly. 

Upon this Mr. Hanson broke out in a kind of 
Excitement. 

" Would to God 1 " said he, " that this Swede 
Vratz had stayed out of England, for I think he 
will be the Engine of some harm to my Lord." 
Then he went on to say that he was in no way 
responsible for the Count Charles but only for the 
other lord, Philip his younger Brother. 

" But I must help a great man where I can," 
he added, and seemed Troubled. 

The Polander Wondered he should speak so 
to a Servant, but dare say no more but followed 
him out into the cold streets of London. It was 
bitter enough and the Polander was in Rags, but 
the Buildings and the people so pleased him that 
he took no heed of the Sharpness of the weather 
but smiled to himself with pleasure at a City so 
Fine. So they came to St. Martin's Lane where the 

114 



THE POLANDER 

Count Lodged and in a room mean enough, high 
up, a place strange for a Man of QuaHty. 

" My Lord Lodged in the HaymarTcet,^^ said 
Mr. Hanson, " but the Chimney smoked so that 
he was fain to move " — and with that he opened 
a Door and the Polander followed him into the 
Count's Chamber. 

This was an ill habitation for a Gentleman, 
being mean and low and of a poor Furnishing. 
There was a fire on the hearth, very brightly 
burning, and near the window a Bed, on which 
my lord the Count Charles lay, wrapped in a 
Flowered Robe of taffeta stuff. 

He was a very young Gentleman, fair and pale, 
with a look of fear in eyes of an unusual bright 
blue ; at the entry of Mr. Hanson and the Polander 
he sprang to a sitting posture on the Bed. 

" This is the fellow, my Lord," said the Governor. 

The Count gave the Polander a Look of a 
startling keenness. 

** Are you trustworthy ? " says he. 

" I will do anything for Captain Vratz," 
answers the Polander humbly Yet with obstinancy. 

My Lord put his feet, which were in white 
Satin slippers, very soiled, to the ground. " You 
are in my service," he says swiftly. 

" To Look after Horses," repHed the Polander 
simply, " and to dress them in the German Fashion, 
if it please your Honour." 

The Count glanced at the Governor and said : 

" This is a fellow of a great simplicity and well 
suited.^' 

115 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

Mr. Hanson answered with some uneasiness : 
" Oh, I know not— Captain Vratz gave him a 
good Character for faithfulness." 

At this the Polander was very satisfied and his 
eyes held Gratitude. 

The Count, leaning on one elbow against the 
Bed Post, addressed him : 
'' What is your Name ? " 
" George Borosky, my Lord." 
" Well," said the Count of Conningsmarke, " it 
is true that I wish you to dress horses in the German 
fashion, for I beheve you are a good Groom and 
I am here in England incognito to raise a Regiment 
of Horse for the service of the King of England Who 
is to enter into an Alliance with Swedeland and 
Holland against France— indeed, there is talk of a 
Surprise on Strashurg and my Brother has bought 
one Horse already and is to buy more." 

Here he stopped abruptly and the Polander 
gave a salute after the Mihtary Fashion, not 
knowing what to say and withdrew against the 
Wall at the far end of the Chamber. Then my 
Lord spoke to Mr. Hanson. 

" Have you made those Enquiries ? " he asked. 
" My Lord, I did ask the Swedish resident and 
his answer was— that if you should Meddle in any 
Way with Esquire Thynne you would have but 
a bad living in England— but as for the Law of it, 
he could not say." 

" And for the Other ? " asked my Lord, in a 
low voice. 

" He said, that if you should Duel Mr. Thynne, 
116 



THE POLANDER 

lie could not instruct you as to what the Law 
might be regarding your Hopes of the Lady Ogle, 
Esquire Thynne's Wife." 

" Monsieur Lienburgh knoweth nought ! " cried 
my Lord impatiently ; " What said he as to 
Riding Out in the Hyde Park on a Sunday ? " 

" He said it might certainly be done, before 
and after Sermon time." 

My Lord seemed Satisfied with that and looked 
again towards the Polander, who had heard all 
this Conversation as it was held in the High Dutch 
or German, but had made Nothing of it and was 
only thinking of Captain Vratz. 

" You are very Ragged," said the Count, 
" and have never a Sword " 

Then he questioned him — had he not been long 
in coming ? 

And the Polander answered Yes, and there had 
been fear of the Ship being cast away, owing to 
the High Storms, he having been twelve days 
from Strashurg to Hamburg and fourteen from 
Hamburg to London, instead of eight. 

" Yes," said my Lord pleasantly, "' and I 
feared you were lost and went to enquire of the 
Ship at the 'Change, and I would have been un- 
wilhng to lose you, for Captain Vratz tells me you 
are a mighty Able Groom." 

*' I do love Horses," said the Polander, " and 
have trusted them always." 

" No man of mine can go in such a coat," says 
my Lord, *' but I have none to send to purchase 
one nor can I go out Myself by reason of the physic 

117 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

Dr. Harder gave me, for I must no wise be Chilled, 
lie said." 

" Whj, I will do this Service for your Lordship, 
very Heartily," answered Mr. Hanson. 

" And a Sword also," said the Count. 

" That also," said the Governor, " and Boots." 
He asked my Lord then how his Illness went and 
the Answer was — better, though the Ague was by 
no Means gone. 

" Now, fellow," said Mr. Hanson, " come with 
me to make these Purchases." 

My Lord took some money from the pocket 
of his gown and gave it to the Polander. 

" That is to discharge your Lodging at Monsieur 
Flaubert's Academy," he said ; " to-night you shall 
lie here." He spoke in a Languid Tone, but his 
eyes had an Extraordinary sparkle and brightness. 

]\Ir. Hanson now asked my Lord — How Much 
he was willing to dispose of on a Sword ? 

And he answered ten Shillings, and as much 
for the Coat. 

Mr. Hanson then carried the Polander to a 
shop near and bought a riding Coat and a Pair of 
Boots and there was some dijB&culty in getting 
either large enough for one of his Bulk and Bearing. 

They then went down St. Martin's Lane but 
could find never a Sword worth a Groat ; then on 
]VIr. Hanson went as far as Charing Cross and then 
into a Cutler's and bestowed ten Shillings on a 
Sword for a Servant, which could not be ready till 
Evening, however. 

Mr. Hanson said he would call for it when he 
118 



THE POLANDER 

came back from the Play that night and took 
the Polander back to M. Flaubert's Academy, 
where the Younger Count, a very Gay and Beautiful 
Gentleman, was learning to ride the Great Horse. 

The Polander Paid for his Lodging and waited 
in the Academy feeling sad for loneliness till Mr. 
Hanson came back from the Theatre and took 
him again to the Cutler's ; but the Sword was by 
no means Ready. 

" 'Tis strange," cried the Governor, '' that a 
Gentleman cannot get a Little Sword for himself 
in a whole Afternoon ! " 

" Well, sir," said the Cutler, " pray do not be 
Impatient. I will send the Sword." 

They then left the shop and went towards 
St. Martin's Lane; it was now Snowing and a 
Great Volume of Wind abroad. 

When they reached my Lord's Lodging they 
found him still in his Gown and Night Cap sitting 
over the fire and he looked like a sick man save 
for the great Light and GHtter in his Eyes. 

He asked where his Brother was. 

*'At his Grace of Eichmond's," said Mr. 
Hanson ; " We were at the Play together and I 
have ordered the Broadsword which will come anon." 

They were talking without any Regard to the 
Polander who stood stiff in his New Coat, Longing 
to see Captain Vratz and to go to the horses he 
was to look after (and he wondered where the 
Stables might be as this was too HI a House to 
have any). Now Mr. Hanson went up to my Lord 
in moved fashion. 

119 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

*' Think of tlie Consequences of this, Count 
Charles ! " he said. 

My Lord looked up in a kind of Passion. 

" He puts Words on me that are no wise to be 
borne ! " 

" Is it for the words he Used or for the sake 
of the Red Haired Girl you saw at the Hague V 
asked Mr. Hanson, biting the end Curls of his 
Peruke. 

" He cklled me a Hector," said my Lord, " and 
Laughed at my Horse — and, by God, you shall 
leave the Lady Ogle Out of this ! " 

" Your Lordship has not left her Out," answered 
Mr. Hanson, '' for you bid me discover if you 
would have any Hopes of her if you got rid of 
her Husband " 

At this Point the Count bid the Polander go 
down to the Kitchens of the house and dine, and 
he added that in this place he was known as Carlo 
Cuski, and not by his Real Name. 

Thereupon the Polander went ; there was a 
Man and a Maid and a Boy in the Kitchen who 
had no Language but English, so the Count's 
man ate his meat in Silence and was presently 
going to the place appointed to him to sleep in 
when a young Gentleman, very finely Dressed in 
Blue, came down, and speaking German, bade 
him Come up to the Count, which he did and found 
to his vast Joy, Captain Vratz with his Lordship. 

" Come here. Fellow," said my Lord ; he stood 
up in the Light of the Fire and his slight figure 
in the Limp Gown, the Night Cap pulled over 

120 



THE POLANDER 

his tumbled Hair, his pallid face with the feverish 
eyes was in a Contrast with the Men of Lesser 
Quality who were Splendid enough in cut Velvet 
and Lace and Tassels. 

Christopher Vratz lifted his Face flushed with 
Fairness after the fashion of the Swedelander and 
looked at the Polander. 

" You are my Servant now, Borosky," said he. 

" Yes," added my Lord. " I have given you 
to Vratz," and he Shivered a little closer to the 
Fire and Held out his hand to the Glow of it, 
Regarding the three with Eyes so unnaturally 
blazing that they conveyed a thrill of terror. 

" Oh, dear sir," said the Polander, " this is 
a Greater Joy than I looked for in coming to 
England.^'' 

He bent with more Grace than might easily 
have been expected from his Bulk and kissed the 
Count's thin hand in a humble Gratitude. 

" This is a man," said Captain Vratz, " who 
will do Anything for me — out of the Great Affection 
he hath for my Person " 

" Need you set him on a losing Game ? " asked 
the young German, glancing at the pleased, simple 
face of the Polander. " There is many an Italian 
walking about the Piazza of Covent Garden who 
would do the Trick for the Matter of Fifty Pounds." 

At that my Lord looked up Sharply and seemed 
Mightily out of Countenance and Captain Vratz 
answered : 

" That is in the Count's hands. I am his Man." 

Now the Polander made nothing of all this 
121 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

but only Wished to be away with his Master ; 
and they made so Httle account of him that they 
never abated their Talk but treated him like a 
Dog that had just been bought by a new Master, 
and so he took it himself and truly his Attention 
was absorbed by a Broadsword he beheld on a 
Table near, and that he Surmised was that ordered 
by Mr. Hanson at the Cutler's at Charing Cross 
and a fine Weapon too, from the Look. 

Near this Weapon was a Black Peruke, and 
the Polander wondered why a Gentleman of so 
fair a face as my Lord should have so Black a 
Wig and he surmised that it belonged to Mr. 
Hanson. 

My Lord walked about the bare floor and seemed 
in some contained Passion of Excitement. 

" It will be a Stain on my Blood," said he, 
" but one good action at the Wars or one Fight 
on the Counterscarp will wipe that away " 

And he spoke like a Man exalted in his Courage 
and ready for a Tragic Turn. 

Presently the three — Vratz, Stern the German 
lieutenant, and the Polander — went away, it being 
then late at Night and Cold. 

And before they went the Count gave the 
Polander the Sword that Mr. Hanson had bestowed 
Ten ShilHngs on, and the last that Fellow saw of 
my Lord was the sight of him in the glimmer of 
a dying Candle staring after the three of them 
with a Face very Young, very 111, very Wild, 
beneath the tumbled Night Cap. 

The three of them went to the Captain's 
122 



THE POLANDER 

Lodgings ; he lay at the Blach Bull in Holhorn, 
in an ill Part of the Town. 

Then the Captain called the Polander up to 
his room and gave him to Drink and after a little 
said : 

" What will You do for Me, George Borosky ? " 

" Before God, Anything — for the great Grati- 
tude I have to You." 

At this Vratz Laughed and cast of! his Hat 
and Wig and his face was Fresh and Ruddy as 
a Rose under the Gold of his Hair. 

" Look you, Borosky," he made answer, " there 
is a Man in London who has put an insult on me — 
and I did put a Challenge on him by the post 
having no Gentleman to send, and he returned 
answer by his Servant that I was not of a Sufficient 
Quahty for a man of his Breeding to fight — and 
this is a thing difficult to Avenge." 

The Polander waited eagerly for his Part in this. 

''It is Esquire Thynne of Longleat Hall," 
continued the Captain, " a Great Jolly English 
Gentleman and a Notable Rake at Court — a man 
very Rich and splendid — he will be riding along 
the Mall to-morrow on his way to Church and it 
is we three who must stop him." 

With that he took a Blunderbuss from the 
v/all and laid it in the great Hands of the Polander. 

" As you love me," he said earnestly, " you 
will put some bullet into this Tom Thynne." 

The Polander stared at the weapon and at 
his Master, then went on his knees, very Pale in 
his Countenance. 

123 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" This is plain Murder," he answered, very 
troubled, " and I have Lived an Innocent Life, 
even at the war, twenty crowns would pay for all 
I took in Plunder and I have been Compassionate, 
nor given to Treachery or Swearing " 

" I ask you to do no Wrong," said Vratz, 
*' only to Obey your Master — If a man will not 
Duel how can one Come at him but this Way ? " 

" It is a Just thing," added Stern, " to obey 
those we have an Obligation to — and I am Pledged 
to you, yet I am willing to be Instructed in the 
Laws of England to discover what Penalty one 
must Pay for this " 

"Why, None," replied the Captain, "for we 
will leave the Country by the first pair of oars 
going to Gravesend, and should we be taken — 
first we have a friend in that Noble Prince, the 
Count of Conningsmarke, and secondly, all will 
fall on me as the Principal and none on you as 
the Agents or mere Engines of my Will — And 
Afterwards," he added, " you shall be Eich Men." 

" Not for Money," said the Polander sadly. 
" I would rather spend my Days with Horses 
than the Rich. I would sooner die Old and Com- 
fortable than in Prison in a Strange Country — • 
but I have promised to serve you and if God does 
not directly tell me it is a Sin I will do this for you." 

" You may trust me when I tell you it is no 
Sin but an Act Necessary to Wipe out Dishonour," 
returned the Captain. 

"I do trust you ! " replied the Polander 
" yet I will also ask God about this matter." 

124 



THE POLANDER 

Then the Captain laughed and dismissed him, 
bidding him be Ready on the Morrow, and the 
Polander went to a Bed set for him in a Garret of 
the Black Bull. He was Much Troubled in his 
Mind that the first Service asked of him by the 
Captain should be a Murder and that on the second 
night of his stay in a Strange Country he should 
have such a Task put on him as to Shoot a Gentle- 
man coming from Church, for it seemed an unmanly 
Action. 

What Penalties might follow he did not know, 
for he was Ignorant of the Laws of England ; 
to this he gave Little Heed for, however : he had 
faith in the Captain and that Great Gentleman 
who was his friend, Charles, Count of Conniags- 
marke. As he sat in the Dark wondering where 
the right lay in this Case he decided to make 
Proof of it and to that end went on his Knees and 
Recited the Lord's Prayer very Gravely and 
Earnestly. And when he had finished he rose up 
again and Searched in his Heart to see if he was 
Strengthened against this Action ; but he found 
no change in his Feelings : so he thought that if 
it had been anything Wrong God would have 
this Way told him ; so was Comforted and Decided 
to Help the Captain. 

Having come to this Resolve he lay down on 
his bed, dressed as he was, and Chanced to Dream 
of Poland which Country he had not seen this 
Great While — but he saw it in the Dream very 
Clear with the sparkle of Snow in Winter and the 
bright- coloured dresses in the Streets. 

125 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

He tliouglit he saw a Church too and dreamt 
he stood on the threshold and was thinking with 
much pleasure of Entering when he was awakened 
by the voice of Christopher Vratz. 

The Polander got to his Feet, Remembering 
everything and the Captain put in his hand a 
Blunderbuss and bade him be Silent ; the two 
went down to the stables of the Black Bull where 
was Ernest Stern and three Horses and it was 
then about Seven of the Clock. 

And the Polander, on seeing he was to be 
Mounted was greatly Encouraged, for he believed 
no evil could come to him when he was on the 
back of a Horse, so took this for a Good Omen. 

" I wish we had Another Man," said Captain 
Vratz, " for Esquire Thynne is one to go with a 
great Medley of Servants about him." 

They mounted then and as they Rode out of 
the Yard the German asked what this Mr. Thynne 
was ? 

And the Captain made answer that he was a 
Man Well Known in London for his marriage to 
Elizabeth, my Lady Ogle, last of the Percies, who 
was heiress to Five Baronies and one of the richest 
Women in the World ; she had been married 
before, yet was but a child of fifteen and still under 
Governance at The Hague and Mr. Thynne was 
looked upon as a lucky Man to have all this Wealth 
without the trouble of a Wife. 

" The death of such a One will make a Stir 
in England," said the lieutenant with an air of 
Misgiving ; but Vratz bid him take Courage. 

126 



THE POLANDER 

" For," he declared, " if there be any Penalties, 
I will pay them all." 

And the Polander Rode behind them patiently, 
much Remarked by the passers-by for his foreign 
air and Great Stature, and so they came to 
the Mall where there was a goodly number of 
People. 

And one of Them, who was a Young Man with 
a Mirror in his hat, Pranking on a Sizeable Horse, 
the Captain stopped and. Saying he was new come 
to London and Desirous of seeing the Notables, 
asked if Esquire Thynne had yet passed ? 

The Englishman, making out this request with 
some difficulty from the Swedelander's strange 
accent, answered at length Courteously that Mr. 
Thynne was Driving Out with His Grace of Mon- 
mouth, and would be coming from Northumberland 
House, where they had made a visit, anon, North- 
umherla7id House being nearly at the End of the 
Mall, on the river at Charing Cross. 

So they waited and the Sun mounted the Snow 
Clouds pleasantly but it was yet scarcely light, 
and the Bells of the Big Churches near by sounded 
in their first Ringing. 

And after a few minutes a Coach and four 
Horses came swinging on its Leathers with Six 
Servants Riding at the Sides and Vratz knew the 
colours. 

Before came a Fellow with a Flambeau ; the 
Captain rode Past him and Caught the Reins of 
the Foremost horses, stopping the coach, and 
Stern cried out to the Polander : " Shoot ! " at 

127 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

the same time Threatening the Coachman. Like 
one in a Stupour the Polander rode round to the 
Side of the Coach, and saw the Handsome Face 
of an Englishman with Brown Eyes looking out 
of the window. 

" Shoot ! " cried Captain Vratz. 

And the Polander raised his Blunderbuss and 
Fired into the lace-covered Bosom of Esquire 
Thynne. 

" Damn your Foreign tricks, I'm murdered ! " 
cried the Englishman ; he fell back on the Seat 
of the Coach and the Polander Turned and Galloped 
away up St. James Street and Alhan Street with 
the Captain and Stern after him ; and the Servant 
with the Flambeau put a Pursuit on them as far 
as the HaymarJcet, then could go no Further ; 
but the Polander had Cast away his Blunderbuss 
and that the Servant Caught up and carried back 
to the Mall, where was a Great Press and Mr. 
Thynne Dying with three bullets in him and the 
People saying how his Grace of Monmouth had 
but just left the coach and what a stroke that 
was, for he might have been Murdered else. 

And the three rode to my Lord's Lodgings in 
St. Martin's Lane and asked for him. 

" For it may be Well," said the Captain, 
" that we ask my Lord to let us Lie at the Swedish 
Resident's " 

But when they answered his knock he was 
told that the Count had gone early that Morning 
to Windsor wearing a Black Periwig and in a 
Coat he had borrowed of a Servant. At hearing 

128 



THE POLANDER 

this news the Captain came back with a Look of 
Death in his face. 

" If he hath Fled to Gravesend " he said, 

and They All went Back to the Black Bull and 
Mounted to the Captain's Chamber and sat Still 
and Silly, looking at each other. 

" We have trusted You,'' said Stern, " and 
there is your Word to it that we are Safe." 

" I had the Count of Conningsmarke's Word," 
answered the Captain, " but he hath failed 
me " 

" Will you Fail us ? " asked Stern. 

The Polander said nothing but watched the 
Captain in a Troubled Way. 

The German got to his feet and laid his hand 
on Vratz's Shoulder. 

" If my Lord hath gone to Gravesend in a 
Black Periwig — should not we go after him and 
shp down the Thames to Margate where we may 
likely enough get a Ship for Home ? " 

The Captain looked up like one Undecided, 
then in a moment was on his Feet, for there had 
come a Great Knocking on the Door ; nor did 
those without Long stay at Knocking but burst 
open the door and Entered. 

They were Constables and the People of the 
Inn and in front of them a Man in Squire Thynne's 
Liveries carrying a Musquetoon, and on seeing the 
three he gave a Cry and called out : 

'' That is the man did shoot my Master ! " 

And the Polander saw that it was the Blunder- 
buss he had Dropt in the Haymarket. 

129 K 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" Why do you put this on ?7s ? " asked Captain 
Vratz in his ill English. 

A Constable spoke to him and answered : 

** We took this Musquetoon to the Maker 
whose name is thereon, and he told us he had sold 
it yesterday to one Captain Vratz who lodged at 
the Black Bull. 

" I do admit," answered the Captain, " that I 
was at the shooting of Mr. Thynne, but I went 
with the design to Challenge him, he having Re- 
fused me Satisfaction, and I took these Two with 
me as Protection, Mr. Thynne being a Gentleman 
who has commonly a great Press of Servants 
about him which he might have set on me. And 
in the Melee my Servant fired and that I know 
nothing of." 

At this they were all three disarmed and arrested, 
at which the Polander Wept mightily. 

And when they had a Lodgement in Prison it 
came to them that my Lord of Conningsmarke 
had been arrested at Deptford by an Agent of the 
Duke of Monmouth when he had been taking a 
Pair of Sculls for Gravesend. 

In the Prison they were separated and the 
Polander sat alone till his trial and when they 
Pressed him he said that he had Acted only as 
His Master Directed and that was the Law he 
had been brought up in — to obey his Master ; 
and he added that not having been Strengthened 
against the deed after the Kecital of the Lord's 
Prayer he Concluded that God had meant him to 
do this thing. 

130 



THE POLANDER 

Stern also Confessed to the Fact and accused 
the Captain of drawing him into a Snare, but 
Vratz maintained his first Story and would not 
bring my Lord into the Business. 

And the Count of Conningsmarke denied all 
of them. 

Now this Trial was held before the Lord Chief 
Justice and the other Great Judges with manifest 
and open Fairness, according to the English Law, 
even to have the Jury part Foreign and giving 
all rights to the Prisoners, such as having an 
Interpreter, one Vandore, who interpreted to them 
all the English Spoken, putting it into High Duich 
or French. 

Yet there was Little Doubt as to the End of 
this Trial, as all three Confessed to the Design 
on Esquire Thynne and the Polander to the actual 
shooting ; but Captain Vratz would by no means 
bring the Count of Conningsmarke in, but took 
the Whole Matter on his own shoulders ; but 
the other two. Stern from Anger and the Polander 
from SimpUcity, told what they knew of my 
Lord's part in This. 

Yet at the End it was the Count who was 
Acquitted and the three Humble Ones who were 
Condemned, and my Lord left Them to the Law ; 
yet even T^^en Captain Vratz Persisted that he 
was alone Guilty. 

And when the Prisoners were asked what 
they had to say for Themselves, the Captain 
Vratz Said that he had not been rightly Examined, 
Stern that he had gone into the Affair as Second 

131 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

to the Captain and in that Capacity would end it, 
and the Polander asked God for Mercy. 

When in Prison these Three were seen by Dr. 
Burnet and Dr. Horneck who knew Foreign 
Languages and to both of these Priests Stern 
and the Polander Confessed, but Vratz would 
write nor say Nothing, but to their solicitations 
Replied with great Composure that the Matter 
was between him and God and that he Perceived 
that they wished to draw him to Implicate the 
Count, which he would by no Means do. 

Dr. Horneck was Much Impressed by the 
Innocent Lives these Men had led and by their 
Devotion to the Captain and the nice sense of 
Honour Stern showed and the Humble Ingenuous- 
ness of the Polander, and he brought all three 
together and exhorted Vratz to a Confession. 

And Stern added his Words, saying : 

" I Forgive you for having Drawn me into 
this Business, for the Count of Conningsmarke 
deluded you, but Repent now, for we are very 
near the Judgment of God." 

Thereupon Vratz fell into a passion, and gave 
him Reproachful Words, saying he Lied. 

" Put no Blame on my Lord," he said, " for 
he is Guiltless." 

And with that he was Going, when the Polander 
Spoke. 

" Give me a Word," he said, " for soon I 
must Die." 

But Vratz looked at him with quick Kindled 
Wrath. 

132 



THE POLANDER 

" You too defamed my Lord," he said, " and 
I thought you were a Faithful Servant." Then 
he left them. 

And the Polander Wept mightily. 

*' The Two things I have most trusted In have 
Betrayed me," he said, " first the Captain who 
sadly Deceived me in this matter — then I had a 
great Love for Horses and thought to spend my 
Life in the care of them, but when this Late Mis- 
fortune happened, I was on the back of One." 

Stern asked if he might be Buried, not Gibbeted, 
if he made a Written Confession, and they told 
him, Yes, maybe, so he wrote what he knew of 
it all. 

Now the Night before their Execution there 
came a Message from the Captain, Confessing 
that he had drawn them into this Snare and asking 
their Forgiveness. 

Upon which they Both Returned him a Message 
of Great Affection and the Polander felt indeed 
Happy and Almost Satisfied to die if he might be 
on these Terms with the Captain. 

So they came to be Hanged, on the Tenth of 
March, in Pall Mall on the Spot where Esquire 
Thynne had been Murdered ; and Vratz was 
Bmied but the other two Hung in Chains, and the 
Great Frame of the Polander hung near Camden 
Town long after his crime had been Forgotten by 
the General. 

There was a Fine Marble put up in the Abbey 
Church of Westminster to the Memory of Mr. 
Thynne, and next year his Widow, the Lady 

133 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

Ogle, married the Duke of Somerset, who was 
the Proudest Man in England. 

As for Charles Count of Conningsmarke, he 
went to the Wars and became Famous for his 
Achievements, but it was Believed that he was a 
Haunted Man, and it has been Rumoured that he 
Confessed to being Troubled, not by Mr. Thynne, 
or either of the two Soldiers, but by the figure of 
the Polander in the New Coat and carrying the 
new Broadsword Mr. Hanson had Bought, smiling, 
very humble and Grateful. 

This Figure Followed him so Persistently that 
his Death at the Siege of Argos in 1685 was a 
Kelease from a Life that had become Unbearable. 



13i 



THE EXTRAOEDINARY STORY OF 
GRACE ENDICOTT 

Grace Endicott hath had as remarkable history 
as any woman of her times, and slander, calumny 
and malice, as well as curiosity and wonder, having 
noised and mouthed her story until it hath been 
used as a scorn against the Nonconformists and 
the town of Bedford, one who was well acquainted 
with her here putteth forth the facts as they were 
known to him, of the which he can solemnly attest 
and sware the truth, by his faith in Christianity. 
After this preamble he now giveth the case, leaving 
the judgment thereof to the charity of the human 
heart and the Eye of God Ahnighty, only adding 
for himself that never was there a stranger instance 
of the deahngs of Heaven and Hell with man and 
woman. 

Mrs. Endicott was born at Edworth, in the 
county of Bedford, in the year 1652, being the 
period of the high glory of our late the Lord Pro- 
tector. 

Her family was of the yeomanry and of con- 
siderable substance ; she early lost her mother 
and had but one sister, younger than herself. 

Her father being a pious man, she was brought 
up to walk in the ways of righteousness, and was 

135 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

well educated beside in the accomplishments of 
her sex; and she became a hopeful sprightly 
maiden, full of winning graces, so that she drew 
unto her many likely swains, yet would have none 
of them, being contented enough in her present 
situation. 

In the year 1672, Mrs. Endicott being then 
twenty years of age and her sister married into a 
house of her own rank, her father left his farm 
in charge of a steward and bought a residence in 
Bedford, where he came to live with this remaining 
daughter. 

Here Mrs. Endicott, by reason of her personal 
endowment and handsome fortune promised, found 
herself in the midst of much courtship and flush 
of friendship from the better sort and received 
many a treat and comphment ; in fine she began 
to lead a life of uselessness and vanity and to lose 
pleasure in everything but the gauds of the 
world. 

Full often have I seen her setting forth in a 
little chariot with pearls on her head and a marvel 
of silk and braid about her person and a coat on 
her back of sable fur that would have brought a 
copyhold. 

And many of those who watched this maiden 
thought the Father of Darkness had set some 
springe to catch her soul, so different was she 
from the meekness of her tender years, and this 
was a curious thing withal, for her people had 
ever leant to Puritan doctrine, and during the 
civil war had stood for the Godly side. And those 

136 



THE STORY OF GRACE ENDICOTT 

who thus made talk of the lightness of Mrs. Endi- 
cott's behaviour soon found a cause for it in the 
person of Gilbert Farry, who was an attorney of 
the place. 

Now this Farry, for divers reasons, was neither 
loved nor liked ; the main argument against him 
being that he and his family were unknown in 
the neighbourhood where he had lived but a few 
years, and therefore he was, in a manner, a 
foreigner; nay, some held it that he was foreign 
indeed, and had false French or Italian blood in 
him, for his complexion was unnaturally dark and 
his temper sudden and gusty. 

Though he had money enough, and indeed 
lived above his station, yet he never honestly 
proclaimed how he came by it nor openly spoke 
of his parents or former residence, and this close- 
ness caused people to take up a dislike to him and 
predict no good of his end. 

There was something strange in his dress, for 
he greatly affected outlandish colours of a bright- 
ness ill-befitting a Christian, and often when he 
went abroad there would be a set of boys of the 
baser sort calling after him, for he had the afflic- 
tion of a limp that caused his garments to be the 
more noticeable ; yet methinks it true that he 
overtopped the Bedford gallants in presence and 
speech, and the old wives said there would have 
been many a wench glad enough to take him, for 
there was nought definite against him and he never 
missed his church-going, though the mahcious said 
it was but fear of the fine that sent him there. 

137 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

Now it seemed that from the moment of their 
first meeting this Farry took no manner of heed 
of any woman but Mrs. Endicott, and she gave 
him no discouragements, and her father was 
friendly enough and clearly looked upon the young 
man as a suitor, and when wise folks shook their 
heads he would laugh and bid them wait till affairs 
were riper. Inasmuch as the whole town took 
notice of this courtship which went on in open 
freedom a wonderment began to grow that Farry, 
having screwed himself into the favour of the father, 
did not demand the hand of Mrs. Endicott. 

And there was much pursing of lips and many 
a round declaration that Mr. Endicott would have 
done a wiser thing in lending his countenance to 
one of his own knowledge and county. 

Now about this time, it being near Christmas, 
Mr. Endicott gave a ball, and the expectants said 
that his daughter's betrothal would follow this 
feast, and using curiosity as a cloak for carnal 
inclinations many worthy folk went who would 
have served the Lord better by remaining by their 
own hearth. 

The dance was continued till late, indeed when 
every one became much animated, for Mr. Endicott 
was open-handed with his meat and drink, and 
there was music of fiddles and a harp. 

At midnight Mr. Farry led out Mrs. Endicott 
for some new fangled step from the court (and 
there were many wanted to hear how he came 
to know it and how he had found occasion to teach 
her), and they came down the room hand in hand, 

138 



THE STORY OF GRACE ENDICOTT 

she in a pink taffeta with trimmings of silvered 
silks which had been bought in London and her 
hair trimmed and dressed like a city Madam at 
least. 

So they came down the room, and all eyes were 
on them ; they looked only at each other, and it 
was commonly averred afterwards that the look 
on the face of Mrs. Endicott was that of one whom 
earthly passion hurrieth forv/ard to inevitable 
actions, maybe of folly or wickedness. 

Still gazing at him, she changed hands in the 
centre of the room, and moving round for the first 
figure gave him her left. 

Then of a sudden her radiant face withered ; 
she cast an affrighted glance at her feet, recoiled 
like one who has stepped on a springe and with a 
shriek fell on the ground, passing into fit after fit 
with many frantic gestures and maniac words. 

This thing did completely put an end to that 
festival, and was blazing matter for talk, for Mrs. 
Endicott lay ill for many weeks and gave for 
reason for her sudden disorder that she had had 
a vision of Hell. 

Yea, she declared with floods of tears to all 
who came about her that Hell itself had opened 
at her feet, and she gave such details and spoke 
with such earnestness of the horrid spectacle of 
smoke and flame and the faces grinning up at her 
and the hands endeavouring to pull her down that 
there was none who dare entirely slight or dis- 
credit her tale lest they should be casting scorn 
on one of the Judgments of God ; so all made 

139 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

agree to tell her that it was a forewarning brought 
on her by her careless life and she used all haste 
to make amends. 

She sold all her gauds and fine things and gave 
the money to the needy ; she came often to the 
prayers and devoted herself to household stufi as 
was beseeming one in her situation. No longer 
did she go prinking hke an idle wanton lady, but 
went in a humble habit without adornment and 
took up thrifty ways and a sober conversation. 

Nor would she have any manner of intercourse 
with Gilbert nor even speak of him ; nay, he was 
of all others the creature she most hated to hear 
tell of, and though she could give no reason for 
the aversion she discovered yet she maintained 
it against her opposition. 

Her father argued this matter with her with 
some heat, declaring that the young man deserved 
some kindness from her who had so lately en- 
couraged him in a way that had made public 
comment ; in short, being still close in friendship 
with Mr. Farry, Mr. Endicott made every endeavour 
to bring him again into his daughter's favour, yet 
without success, for she was resolved in this and 
was by no means to be moved. 

She gave as her reasons the horror she felt at 
the sneering irreverent way Mr. Farry had of 
talking of holy things and the general looseness 
and idleness of his life. 

To such a height was her hatred against him 
now raised that when one day in springtide he 
did send her a wattle basket full of the first rose 

UO 



THE STORY OF GRACE ENDICOTT 

blooms she cast them from her with a shudder, 
and let them lie in the garden, where the sun 
sucked the life from them ; yet was she commonly 
fond of flowers. 

Yet did she have to suffer him about the house, 
for her father every day drew nearer with him in 
friendship, and even drew up a will leaving most 
of his goods to Mrs. Grace on condition of her 
marriage to this Farry. 

At this time a wonderful man preached at the 
Baptist Chapel in Bedford ; he had been a soldier 
in the Parliamentary Army, and of great profanity 
and wickedness, but having been marvellously con- 
verted he had taken to preach the pure Word of 
God, and there were a many went to listen to him, 
some to scoff, for he was unlettered to be talking 
of learned things, but many to pray, moved by 
the truth that was in him. 

Now to hear this preacher, who began to be 
well known in these parts, went Grace Endicott, 
and ofttimes took her father and her sister and 
brother-in-law, for, as hath been told, the family 
leant to the Noncomformist views. After but a 
little while Mrs. Endicott became wrapt up in 
the spiritual Hfe and an ardent convert to the 
preachings of this poor preacher, Mr. John Bunyan, 
whose doctrines filled her life with gladness and 
rejoicings. 

Surely she was like a woman transformed, and 
took no dehght save in the meetings at the Baptist 
Chapel, which were often enough broken by Mr. 
Bunyan being in Bedford Gaol, for the King had 

141 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

lately issued strong laws against the Noncon- 
formists and had no mind to suffer them to worship 
in peace. 

At first Mr. Endicott was much uplifted by 
these meetings, and incHned to turn from worldly 
things and to uphold his daughter in her devotions, 
but after a while Gilbert Farry worked on him 
again, and he went but seldom and his fervour 
died. 

Yet truly he in no way interfered with his 
daughter, but allowed her her will in the matter, 
and though Farry screwed more and more into 
his confidence, yet Mrs. Endicott was unmolested 
in her devotions. About the year 1678 Mr. Endi- 
cott sold his house in Bedford and returned to 
his farm at Edworth, which was at some distance 
from the chapel where Mr. Bunyan preached. 

Y^et Mrs. Endicott was nothing daunted by 
difficulties of road or weather, and attended the 
meetings as regularly as any grave elder of them all. 

Now this persistency of hers gave occasion for 
Gilbert Farry to influence her father's mind in an 
evil fashion ; it was not in nature, he said, for a 
woman young and excessively comely (and who 
had been addicted to gay things) to be so blinded, 
addicted and possessed by religious zeal as was 
Grace Endicott. He hinted that John Bunyan 
was a personable man and one who had not so 
long been reformed from the most carnal ways of 
the Devil ; he related how the preacher and the 
maiden held long conversations, going to and from 
the chapel, and he spread these scandals until 

142 



THE STORY OF GRACE ENDICOTT 

they were known to all Bedford. It happened 
that while things were in this pass, in the winter 
of this year '78, Mr. Bunyan was appointed to 
preach and administer the Sacrament of the Lord's 
Supper at Gamlingay, which is some distance from 
Edworth. 

Mrs. Endicott made her preparations to go, but 
when it came to asking the consent of her father 
it was angrily withheld. 

Whereupon she fell into a great travail of mind 
and besought him with utter earnestness and 
piteous entreaties to permit her to attend this 
meeting, until he weakened before her importunities 
and gave his consent on the two conditions — that 
she did her household before she went and that she 
returned the same night at a godly hour. 

On the Friday, therefore, Mrs. Endicott, having 
well looked to all her duties, left her home and went 
to her brother-in-law's house, where she was to 
wait for a Baptist minister who was to escort her 
to Gamlingay. 

Here she waited, but the hour became late and 
the minister did not come ; then did Mrs. Endicott 
implore her relative to lend her a horse, but he 
had not one which was not at work, save only 
that on which he and his wife were riding to the 
meeting themselves. 

Hearing this, Mrs. Endicott broke into a passion 
of despair and paced about the apartment in an 
extremity of anguish, and made such a plaint 
that even her own sister thought she showed an 
excess of sorrow. In the midst of this scene Mr. 

143 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

Bunyan himself came riding past, and Mrs. Endi- 
cott had him stopped and bid her brother-in law 
ask if the preacher would take her upon his pilHon. 

And down she came and stood on the doorstep 
to second this request. 

" Will you take me, Mr. Bunyan," she asked, 
" for my soul's sake ? " 

And he was mute, for he was both loath and 
unwilling, for he knew the hard things said of him 
and her in Bedford town. 

" It is for my soul," says Mrs. Endicott again ; 
and so he must be persuaded, and take her up 
behind him through the darkling lanes to Gamlingay. 

And the chance was that they had not gone a 
mile before they passed the man Farry standing 
by the cross roads, who closely looked at them. 

Mr. Bunyan did not salute him, not being of 
his acquaintance, and Mrs. Endicott stared at 
him with eyes that might have been of glass, so 
blank they were ; thereupon Gilbert Farry went 
softly to Edworth and spoke to George Endicott, 
and said — 

'' I have seen your daughter riding pillion with 
John Bunyan to Gamlingay as if they were man and 
wife." 

Now whether or no she pictured Mr. Farry 
poisoning her father, Mrs. Endicott stayed to the 
end of the meeting and seemed wrapt in the ecstasy 
of worship and the joy of the moment. 

Yet when the meeting was over her sorrows 
began again ; Mr. Bunyan was riding another way, 
and there was no manner of means for her to get 

144 



THE STORY OF GRACE ENDICOTT 

home. There was much delay and argument, and 
then she found a woman who had a cart and who 
would take her as far as her sister-in-law's house, but 
from there was no convenience, yet mindful of her 
promise to her father Mrs. Endicott set out on 
the dark, miry and rough roads and so came to 
her home, spent with walking and affrighted with 
loneHness. Still it was not more than eleven of 
the clock, and it caused her amaze to see the windows 
dark and the door locked. 

With trembling hands she knocked at the door, 
and her father came to an upper window with a 
candle in his hand and demanded who was there. 

"It is I, father, come home wet and dirty," 
replied Mrs. Endicott. " I pray you let me in." 

" Nay," he answered. ** Where you have been 
all the evening you may go all the night — and 
never do you cross my threshold until I have your 
promise not to see John Bunyan again." 

*' That is to give up my soul's life," she said ; 
" and I cannot." 

Thereupon he shut the window and took away 
the light. 

Mrs. Endicott did plead desperately and tearfully 
but to no avail, for the bitter night winds took her 
words away and her father heard not. 

Then, the storm coming up apace, she was fain 
to go into the barn, and there to lay her down on 
the straw till the morning. 

When her father made his round he saw her 
there, with her clothes frozen on her and her eyes 
wet and wild. 

145 L 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" Good morrow, father," slie said. " I have 
had a dreary night, but it had been worse had not 
God sustained me." 

" No matter for that," he answered ; " here 
you stay until you promise never to frequent 
meetings again and never to speak to John 
Bunyan." 

Thereupon she hung upon him with vain tears 
and entreaties, but he would have none of it with- 
out her promise, and that she would in no wise 
give ; so at length he flung her from him roughly, 
and she lay along a byre and wept for comfort- 
lessness. 

At noontide up came her brother-in-law, and 
made the endeavour to conclude a peace, but this 
was beyond his powers, for George Endicott was 
obdurate and his daughter would not give her 
promise ; neither would she leave her father's 
house, but dwelt without it for several days, 
living on such food as the pity of the servants 
gave her and sleeping on the ground or in the 
stalls of the horses. 

And day by day came Gilbert Farry and tempted 
her with promises of love and comfort, but she 
would have none of it, but remained a beggar 
before her father's door. 

On the tenth day her father came to her and 
again demanded of her her promise ; and if she 
gave it not, he added, she should no longer have 
even the shelter of his barns, but be cast out upon 
the high-road among the knaves and gipsies. 
Grace Endicott rose up from the straw and stood 

146 



THE STORY OF GRACE ENDICOTT 

erect in her torn, soiled garments, with her hair 
unbound and her cheeks stained with weeping. 

" Sir," she made answer, " I stand between 
Good and Evil, and you would have me choose 
Evil. This is my immortal soul you ask for. For 
certainly I was in the power of the Devil from whom 
I was rescued by Mr. Bunyan, and if you deny me 
his converse, then I am no better than lost." 

But her father was in no way moved, and asked 
if she would promise or go upon the roads. 

" Well and well again," she said with much 
wildness, *' I promise, but it is a lost soul you take 
into your house." 

Thereupon her father took her by the hand 
and led her in, and as she crossed the threshold 
she said again — 

"It is a damned soul you bring home, my 
father." 

In the parlour was a feast spread and wine 
laid out and Gilbert Farry waiting, and he took 
her to him with no excuse and kissed her. 

*' So you have won," she murmured, and made 
no resistance. 

So for a month she lived quietly in her father's 
house, until one day near on Christmas she met 
Mr. Bunyan in the market-place of Bedford town, 
and he was being taken to prison for his preaching, 
and there were many of his following going with 
him with words of encouragement and love. But 
Grace Endicott denied him, and looked as if she 
did not know his face, even asking one who stood 
bv, " Who is that fellow ? " 

147 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

At this John Bunyan looked through the press 
and spoke to her, quoting scripture — 

" Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him 
will I also deny before My Father which is in 
Heaven," he said. 

" I obey my father," answered Mrs. Endicott. 

" He that loveth father or mother before Me 
is not worthy of Me," spake Mr. Bunyan, and 
went on his way to gaol. 

Now all the rest of that day, being Tuesday, 
Mrs. Endicott was very silent ; those among whom 
she moved marked it with concern. The next 
night she came running through the darkness to 
her sister's house, all wild and beside herself, and 
implored them all to come home with her, which 
they did in a great fright. 

Upon the way she told them that her father 
had fallen ill, and was now dying. 

This they found true enough ; George Endicott 
was crouching over a hastily lit fire and bemoaning 
his sins, and in httle while without further speech 
he died. Mrs. Endicott was taken to her sister's 
home on the way, it being then dawn, and they 
met Gilbert Farry, and told him Mr. Endicott was 
sudden dead. 

"It is no more than I looked for," said he ; 
whereupon Mrs. Endicott shocked those with her 
in the cart by laughing, and his remark and her 
manner of taking it were remembered afterwards. 

The end of this business was that the doctors 
made discovery that George Endicott had been 
poisoned by a drug given him in his ale ; and a 

148 



THE STORY OF GRACE ENDICOTT 

drug of this nature had been bought by Mrs. 
Endicott in Bedford a few hours after John 
Bunyan had spoken to her ; this, together with 
the circumstances of her late dispute with her 
father, her being alone with him in the house, the 
suddenness of his illness and some broken words 
he had let drop in his last moments, was evidence 
enough, and Mrs. Endicott was arrested on the 
awful charge of murdering her father and lodged 
in Bedford Gaol, to the great scandal and confusion 
of all Nonconformists and damage to the cause 
of John Bunyan. 

The trial is within the memory of all, and no 
account of it is here required. Mrs. Endicott 
defended herself with prudence and spirit and 
strove to cast the guilt on the man Farry, who was 
the principal witness against her ; and, indeed, 
his known spite towards her, the fact that Mr. 
Endicott's will was in his favour and the misty 
kind of character he bore gave her some handle, 
but since she could no wise explain the drug she 
had bought save lamely saying it was for cleaning 
tiles and that she knew not its deadly properties, 
the case looked ill against the woman. Neverthe- 
less, her youth, her comeliness, her known piety 
and long sweet behaviour, the influence of her 
relatives and the feeling of the people pleaded for her, 
and there was no one who doubted that she would 
be acquitted when on the last day of her trial she 
startled the court by rising up and declaring herself 
guilty and a helpmate of the Devil from the moment 
she abjured John Bunyan in her father's barn, 

149 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

In fine slie vowed herself a witch, and baring 
her arm showed them a purple hoof-print on the 
flesh that was known for the particular mark and 
sign of Hell. After this she refused to speak 
again either to her relatives or to the clergyman, 
and came forth to be hanged next day in a green 
tabinet gown with red ribbons. Not a word spoke 
she while bemg led through Bedford towTi, but 
was composed and seemed in a meditation. 

AVith her own hands she tied down her skirts and 
put up her hair, and so without a prayer or any plea 
for mercy was hanged in full sight of all Bedford. 

There was afterwards found in her gown a 
paper which was taken possession of by me, being 
one of the clergy present, and here published by 
me that all the facts be known to all who care to 
read. As for Gilbert Farry, he came to the execu- 
tion and stood close to the gallows, and when she 
was dead went westward, leaving his properties 
in his lodgings, nor was he ever seen or heard of 
again in Bedford. 

And his belongings were principally books in 
pagan languages and gaudy clothes, which were 
burnt before the Town Hall, for there was a great 
distrust of this man, it being thought that he had 
brought to ruin the soul of Grace Endicott. 

Here followeth the paper written by Mrs. 
Endicott the day before she died : — 

" Bedford Goal, Wednesday, March 25th, 1679. 

" Powerful is evil and hard to escape, and wise 
are those who step aside from the world which 

150 



THE STORY OF GRx\CE ENDICOTT 

is set with s^^ringes into one of which I fell, who 
was once a Chrisom child and spun Church linen 
at my father's door. 

" When I was in my tender years I thought of 
neither good nor evil, but went my way in empty 
vanity ; then, behold ! I had a warning and 
beheld Hell in its flames and saw that Love was 
but the Devil and so let go his hand. 

" Soon there came a man, wonderful and strong, 
who took my soul from the embrace of Evil and 
set it on the road to Heaven and for six years I 
laboured in that thorny way, and thought I had 
found peace. 

" Yet was the Devil busy, and pursued me and 
set his hounds on my soul, and his traps for my feet, 
but the preacher bade me hold fast to him, and 
surely he was drawing me Heavenwards. Yet 
through weakness of body I denied him, and the 
Devil kissed me, and I was a damned soul, and the 
net was so tight about me I could not move, and 
being damned could not pray. 

" Yet I brooded still on Heaven and the 
Preacher, and conceived a great wrath against 
him who had wrung that denial from me, so having 
the seal of the Devil on me I slew my father and 
saw him die in the night. And being put on my 
trial cast spells till they thought me innocent. 
Yet I was presently weary of this, and did admit 
my master and to-morrow shall die and be re- 
turned to that Great Wickedness of which I am a 
part, yet once was a saved soul, grace to Master 
John Bunyan. 

151 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" May He whose name I dare not write save 
others from what befell Grace Endicott." 

Many who read this paper did say she was a 
mad woman, and many did say she was a witch, 
and Gilbert Farry the Devil himself, while others 
swore she was crazed with love for John Bunyan 
and was innocent and the old man died natm:ally 
(for, indeed, the doctors afterwards fell out about 
his having been poisoned), and yet others held 
she had lost her wits through the terror she had 
been in through denying her faith — and who shall 
make truth out of all this tangle ? 



THE CUP OF CHICORY WATER 

" Madame se Meurt ! Madame est Morte ! " 

Vaniias vanitatum, dixit Ecdesiastes, 
Vanitas vanitatum, et omnia vanitas, 

" nuit desastreuse! nttit effroyable, ou retentit tout a coup 
cotnme un eclat de tonnerre cette efonnante nouveUe: Madame se 
meurt I Madame est morte ! " 

Madame found herself at the pinnacle of her desires ; 
she had returned to France with news of the treaty 
of Dover signed, with the friendship of her brother 
for Louis de Bourbon, with the prospect of yet 
another conquest to offer to the glorious nation 
that had adopted her ; her triumphant charms 
had sealed the league between England and France ; 
she had seen Arlington put his name to the paper 
that rendered void the Triple Alliance. Her in- 
fluence, they said, and the languishing eyes of 
Louise de la Querowaille had done it. It was 
the coup de theatre, though a secret one, of a 
brilliant and unscrupulous policy ; it was praised 
by M. de Louvois and by the King ; it was the 
most dishonourable bargain a sovereign of England 
had ever set his hand to ; it was false, lying, 
treacherous ; it involved the ruin of two nations 
to satisfy the greed of one man and the ambition 
of another. 

153 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

Also it was the seeds from wliicli many years 
after sprang the hydra-headed league that laid in 
the sHme of defeat the glories of invincible France. 

But Madame never knew of that. 

All who spoke to her praised her — ^her, the 
daughter of an Enghsh King and the sister of an 
Enghsh King — for this treaty which betrayed 
the English people and their allies ; she had been 
always courted for her beauty, her rank ; now she 
found herself courted for her political influence 
and her skill in the affairs of men — most exquisite 
of compliments for a clever woman proud of her 
cleverness. 

The greatest nation in the world was beholden 
to her ; there were many to tell her so. After- 
wards the Dutch called her a wanton woman, and 
the English people cursed her as they cursed her 
brother. But Madame never heard them. 

There were two Queens at the Court of France, 
but Madame was above either ; she was the most 
brilliant, the most admired princess in France, 
which is to say in the world. 

Madame was Henriette-Anne d'Angleterre, 
Duchesse d' Orleans, sister of Charles Stewart 
and the sister-in-law of Louis de Bourbon, grand- 
daughter of Henri Quartre and his Medicis Queen, 
great-granddaughter of Marie Stewart, on both 
sides of a rich illustrious blood, yet born in the 
midst of civil war in the beleaguered town of Exeter 
and brought up a penniless exile. 

Now, at five and twenty, at the apogee of her 
fame with these things forgotten ; her brother was 

154 



THE CUP OF CHICORY WATER 

restored to her father's throne, and had avenged 
himself, God knows, on the EngUsh people, Madame 
lending her delicate aid. 

Nine months ago Henriette-Marie de France, 
Madame's mother, had died, and Madame had 
listened to her funeral sermon, preached by the 
Bishop of Condom. As his glowing eloquence fell 
on her ears Madame had wept, her gay, light heart 
touched for the first and perhaps the last time. 

She resolved to alter her frivolous, pleasure- 
loving useless life ; she appointed the Bishop her 
confessor, and made, it may be, some little progress 
on another path to that which she had followed 
so far. 

His grace of Condom called her a virtuous 
princess, and, in common with all who knew her, 
loved her for her gaiety, her charm, her sweet- 
ness ; his one-time reproof had melted into flat- 
teries now : there could be no censure for her who 
had detached England from The Triple AlUance. 

Her return from England had been celebrated 
by a succession of balls, fetes, masques ; she had 
re-conquered France with her dazzling English 
beauty, her graceful easy manners, and the 
brilliant success of her mission. Flushed and 
roseate from her victory she descended like a god- 
dess into her throne in the most glorious court in 
Europe ; she was the idol of the people too, " the 
most adorable princess who ever lived," one of 
her ladies called her. There seemed no word to 
express her complex charm. 

In the midst of her gorgeous triumph Madame 
155 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

was a little grieved, a little stung by the obvious 
coldness of Monsieur ; his jealousy had been the 
background of her Hfe for the eight years since 
she had married him. Defying him, she had come 
more than once very near to giving him cause for 
open outraged clamour, but her wit, her courage 
had saved her ; it had always ended in Madame 
laughing at Monsieur. 

She laughed at Monsieur now ; it had become a 
habit, though, knowing him to be something justified 
and not being shallow herself, there was a Httle 
ache to be hidden beneath her sparkling demeanour, 
an ache strengthened perhaps by a memory of 
the Bishop of Condom's words and a vague desire 
to follow them. But there was all her life, she 
thought ; now there was no time for anything 
but gaiety, applause, the sweet incense of adula- 
tion. In the court that toasted Mme d'Armagnac, 
Louise de la ValHere, Madame Valentinois, Madame 
de Soissons, she was reckoned the most beautiful 
woman ; she believed that the King loved her ; 
in her heart she beheved that he, Adonis and Mars 
among men, loved her, the unattainable. If she 
had been free — or even perhaps the wife of any 
other man — she might have been the Queen of 
France. 

She had coquetted with many ; the splendid 
de Guiche, the romantic de Vardes, Marsillacand 
Monsieur le Grand Ecuyer, but — the King 

The queen and Monsieur paid her the infinite 
compliment of being furiously jealous ; the 
d'Armagnacs, the Mancmis, the la Vallieres and 

156 



THE CUP OF CHICORY WATER 

the lesser beauties spread abroad to dazzle the 
eyes of majesty were openly overshadowed ; Eacine 
wrote for her " Berenice," and all who saw it 
performed knew who the heroine stood for — and 
who was Titus. 

The past was stormy but glorious, the future 
vague but golden ; she had the praises of Louis 
and the endearments of Charles in her ears ; she 
had come from England where she had queened 
it for a period of meteor-like splendour to France, 
where she was permanently enthroned. 

" This is a glorious year for me," said Madame. 
*' I think that I am happier than I have ever been." 

It was the twenty-ninth of June, the year 1670, 
eight days after Madame's return to France. She 
and Monsieur had gone to St. Cloud ; Madame 
loved the chateau ; despite the commands of her 
physician, M. Vyelen, she bathed every morning 
in the river that flowed down from Paris past the 
park and wandered at night in the moonlight 
thatwas so chillyafter the heat of the day. Madame, 
whose short life had been torn with several fierce 
illnesses, was careless of her health. This day, 
the twenty-ninth of June, she had passed quietly. 
Madame de la Fayette had arrived at St. Cloud, 
and Madame had been pleased to see her ; they 
had walked in the garden gaily and Madame had 
talked of her stay in England, of the King her 
brother ; speaking of these things pleased her. 
She laughed, and was very cheerful. An EngHsh- 
man was painting Monsieur and Mademoiselle, her 
eldest daughter ; she went to see these pictures, 

157 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

and spoke again of England to Madame de la 
Fayette and Madame d'Epernon. 

Dinner was served in the studio ; afterwards 
Madame lay along the couch and slept, her head 
almost on the shoulder of Madame de la Fayette. 

Monsieur sat for his portrait ; his extremely 
handsome, cold face was turned towards his wife ; 
he appeared not to notice her, but once he remarked 
that her countenance had changed curiously in her 
sleep. Madame de la Fayette, looldng down, 
noticed that this was so. Madame did not look 
beautiful or even agreeable now ; the lady reflected 
that it must be that her loveliness lay in her spirit, 
but reflected again that she was wrong, for she 
had often seen Madame asleep and never seen her 
look less than beautiful before. 

Monsieur talked indifferently of many things. 
Presently the sitting was concluded, and Madame 
awoke. Monsieur remarked that she looked ill; 
she took up the glass at her girdle and surveyed 
herself. She wore a tight-laced gown of pearl- 
coloured satin, embroidered with wreaths of pink 
roses ; it well suited her blue-eyed lovehness. 
She dropped the mirror. 

" I look well enough," she smiled. 

Monsieur left the room ; he had expressed his 
intention of going to Paris. 

Madame descended with Mme Gourdon into 
the saloon that looked upon the terraces, the 
fountains, the parkland. It was a beautiful after- 
noon, lacking but a few moments of five o'clock ; 
the salon was filled with sunshine that showed the 

158 



THE CUP OF CHICORY WATER 

dark walls, the polished floor, the furniture heavy, 
gilded, and Madame walked up and down talking 
to M. Boisfeane, the treasurer of Monsieur. She 
complained, laughing, of a pain in her side, and held 
her hand to it as she walked ; the long window 
was open and a breeze blowing in rufiled the long 
auburn curls back from her face. Presently Mon- 
sieur entered ; he wore a pink velvet riding suit 
and was booted and spurred ; he looked at his wife 
as if he would have spoken to her, but changed his 
mind and crossed to the window. 

" I asked for a cup of chicory water," said 
Madame, ignoring him. " Where is Mme de 
Mecklenbourg ? " 

As she spoke that lady entered with the Com- 
tesse de Gamaches. 

Madame smiled at them ; Monsieur turned in 
the window recess and looked at her ; his hands 
held his gloves behind his back ; the sunlight 
made stars of his spurs and twinkled on his sword- 
handle. Madame crossed the long room, taking 
no heed of him ; her satin gown rippled with light. 
She held out her hand delicately. 

" I have such a pain in my side," she said. 
Chicory water had eased her before. She 
laughed. 

Mme de Mecklenbourg handed the cup to Mme 
de Gourdon, who gave it the Princess. 

Monsieur began putting on his gloves, looking, 
however, at his wife. Monsieur de Boisfeane was 
choosing a flower from the vase on the side-table, 
with an idea of fastening it in his cravat. 

159 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

The heavy pendulum clock struck five. Madame 
drank. 

When she had finished she moved a step away 
from the three ladies, the cup in one hand, the other 
clasped to her heart. 

" My side," she said in a tone of agony ; the 
colour rushed into her face. " Ah ! — the pain — I 
can no more." 

They stood staring at her, Monsieur de Boisfeane 
with a pink rose held in his hand. 

" Ah, my God ! " cried Madame ; she was now 
livid, and the cup fell from her grasp. " Hold me 
up — I cannot stand." 

The Comtesse de Gamaches took her under the 
arms, for she was falling backwards, and Mme de 
la Fayette took her hands. 

As her husband did not move, Mons. Boisfeane 
dared not offer his aid. The four ladies supported 
her to the door ; she walked with difficulty ; her 
head, with its fair hair outspread, sank against 
Mme de Gamaches' shoulder ; her pearl comb, 
that had been her mother's, fell out of her locks 
and rattled on the smooth floor. 

Monsieur, moving for the first time since her 
outcry, picked it up and ordered Mons. Boisfeane 
to call a doctor. 

Madame, moaning, almost fainting, was half 
lifted, half dragged to her chamber. 

This was a handsome room full of the summer 
sunshine and overlooking the rose terrace. Madame 
sank across the chair before her dressing-table ; 
Mme de la Fayette held her up while the other 

ICO 



THE CUP OF CHICORY WATER 

ladies unlaced her. In an instant they had her 
undressed and in a night-gown ; they lifted her 
into the great red-curtained bed. 

Her constant complaints and the tears in her 
blue eyes startled and astonished them ; they 
knew that she was usually patient under pain. 

" You are in great anguish ? " asked Mme de la 
Fayette. 

" It is inconceivable," she answered. " What 
have I done ? " 

She threw herself from side to side in her agony, 
clutching at the pillows and her thin night-rail. 
Mme de Gamaches drew the silk curtains over the 
bright sunlight and the terraces of St. Cloud. Her 
first physician came, stared down at her as she lay 
tossing. 

He said she had caught a chill from her bath- 
ing, that it was nothing ; he could offer no remedy. 

She sat up in bed, shuddering with pain. 

'' I am wiser than you think," she cried. " I 
am dying — send me a confessor." 

The doctor repeated that it was nothing 
dangerous, and left the chamber to prepare a 
powder. 

Madame fell on her side again; her sufferings 
were horrible. She opened her eyes from a swoon 
of anguish to see her husband holding back the 
bed curtains and looking down at her. 

She spoke, panting from the pillow. 

" Ah, Monsieur ! — you have ceased to love me — 
a long while now — but I — I have never deceived 
you." 

161 M 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

He turned away without a word. 

She lay now on her back exhausted ; the curtains 
were drawn so that she was enclosed in her bed. 
Her sick eyes traced the pattern on the canopy 
above her ; she heard her ladies whispering. 

She thought of de Guiche smuggled into her 
apartments under the guise of a fortune-teller, of 
his letters — three, four a day — when she was last 
sick ; she thought of Marsillac, of de Vardes, of 
M. de Lorraine and of the King 

She thought of the King's brother, her husband, 
of how she had angered, flouted, wounded him, 
of how she had laughed at him. 

All at once she sat up and dragged the curtains 
apart. 

" Look to that water I drank," she gasped. 
" I am poisoned ! " As she spoke she saw that 
Monsieur was still in her chamber, and she seemed 
confused. *' They mistook one bottle for another," 
she said, and fell down again in the bed. 

A little tremor of horror ran through the 
ladies. Madame de la Fayette looked at Monsieur ; 
he appeared neither startled nor terrified. 

" Give some of the chicory water to a dog," 
he said, " and watch if it be poison or no." 

But Mme de Gamaches said that the cup she 
had given to Madame had contained the last there 
was in the bottle. 

It was now half-past five ; the doctor returned 
and gave Madame a glass of viper powders mixed 
with milk ; as she dragged herself up to take it 
she noticed that the sun was still shining brightly 

1G2 



THE CUP OF CHICORY WATER 

through a chink in the curtains, and it shot across 
her agony ; it was a strange thing that the sun 
ghmmered still over the terraces, the rose-beds, 
the terraces of St. Cloud, and the broad river 
running from Paris. 

The loathsome mixture did her no good ; she 
was smitten with a deadly sickness, and lay quite 
still, shivering. M. Vyelen felt her hands, icy 
cold, her feet as cold. 

'' I am poisoned," she said ; " I am dying." 

The room was crowded with people ; many of 
them were weeping. The noise of it came heavily 
to her ears ; her eyes were closed. 

She wondered why they should weep ; nobody 
was there whom she had imagined fond of her; 
neither De Guiche, Marsillac, M. de Lorraine — her 
brother, De Vaudes or — the King. 

And these ? Would any of these care ? She 
trusted none but the last. 

How far to Versailles ? W'hy did they not 
send for him ? 

The curtain was drawn again ; this time Mme 
Desbordes. She declared that she had made the 
chicory water herself and had drunk of it. This to 
comfort Madame ; it was not — as to the last — true. 

Madame persisted that she was poisoned. She 
sat up in bed ; the tears lay in her eyes. 

" Give me an antidote," she said through 
locked teeth. She was not going to die, she told 
herself ; it was too horrible. People did not die 
like this in the midst of glory. She clenched her 
hand against her side and demanded an antidote. 

163 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

Sainte-Foy, the valet de cliambre of Monsieur, 
brought her a draught composed of Jesuit's bark 
and pulverised mummy. Monsieur had sent it, 
he said ; the doctor could recommend no better 
antidote. She drank it, shivering ; the eyes were 
distracted. 

Her ladies whispered and sobbed together ; 
there were now so many men and women in the 
room that she felt the air close and heavy. She 
implored Sainte-Foy to open the window ; the 
doctor forbade it. 

With that she fell back, tossing in the grip of 
pain, crying out that she was poisoned. 

M. Vyelen brought her a glass of oil ; she forced 
it down, shuddering with nausea. 

Then after the administration of several horrible 
nameless drugs she lay in a half-stupor. 

The pain had ceased to be localised ; it shuddered 
through her limbs like her very blood and seemed 
one with the thick air about her. 

Her thoughts raced at a fever pace ; she saw 
the towers of Exeter, the first thing she could re- 
member ; she saw the mean room in Paris where 
her girlhood had been spent and the waves tossing 
in the channel as she stood on the deck of the ship 
by her mother's side : a man in cut velvet was 
there — George Villiers, the first man to profess 
himself mad for love of her. 

Then masques, festivals, adorations, ballets 
danced with the King, snatched interviews with 
De Guiche, passionate letters from De Vardes, 
hunting parties with M. de Lorraine, little scenes 

164 



THE CUP OF CHICORY WATER 

with Monsieur, with the Queen Mother, — her last 
great triumph only a few days ago — and now ? 

Not the end? Oh, God! Oh, Christ! Not 
the end ! 

" She is better," whispered Madame de la 
Fayette, seeing her lie still. 

She opened her poor tortured blue eyes. 

*' The pain is always the same," she said, 
" only I have no strength to complain." 

Then after a moment — 

" Is there no remedy for this agony ? " 

They wept and whispered and talked. Monsieur 
was in the ante-chamber. The doctors seemed 
bewildered, frightened ; one felt her pulse ; it 
was beating furiously. She complained of heat 
though she had tossed the bedclothes off and torn 
open her night-gown ; but there were so many 
people in the room, and they pressed so close to 
the bed that she obtained Httle air. 

The cure of St. Cloud had arrived ; they 
argued in the ante-chamber whether he should be 
admitted or not ; to let Madame see a confessor 
was to admit that she was dying. 

She had now been ill for three hours. The 
room was full of the yellow Hght of lamps and 
candles ; some of it penetrated through her bed 
curtains. A spasm of horror shook her. What if 
she never saw the sun again ! She resolved to 
live at least till dawn — so her thoughts, panting 
with her pain. 

Monsieur came to her bedside ; she opened her 
eyes and looked at him as he stood holding back 

165 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

her curtains. He had a spray of jasmine in the 
buttonhole of his pink coat ; she noted that. He 
had not worn it when she had fainted in the saloon ; 
since then he had found time to fix it there. 

" Will you see the confessor, Madame ? " he 
asked. How little he had changed since she had 
first known him ; she looked up into his cold face, 
and their eyes met. 

" No," she murmured, and her heavy lids fell. 
" I am not dying. I shall be better soon." 

The light hurt her eyes ; she was glad when he 
dropped the curtain and turned away. 

How she had lied to Monsieur and laughed at 
him — especially laughed at him — never with malice ; 
now she was prostrate, helpless before him. 

She called Madame de la Fayette. 

" Cannot you do anything for me ? " she 
whispered desperately. 

She was told that they had sent to Paris for a 
doctor, to Versailles for the King's physician. 

" Versailles," she repeated ; her eyes lit. 

Madame de la Fayette put her arm about her 
and held her up in bed ; she seemed for the moment 
a little eased of her agony. 

M. Vyelen roused her as she lay in this half 
swoon to bleed her arm. 

All her poor vanity was roused ; there was a 
great ballet on Thursday — she might be there yet — 
and her arms were her especial beauty. 

" My foot ! " she pleaded ; " Monsieur, bleed 
my foot." 

He insisted ; her husband came and added his 
166 



THE CUP OF CHICORY WATER 

authority ; she must be bled in the arm if M. 
Vyelen commanded it. 

She protested still and moaned ; Monsieur 
helped to support her while the doctor bared her 
arm. 

She looked so pale, so worn with pain, so patient, 
she lifted her eyes with such a look of dumb help- 
lessness that Monsieur was troubled and turned 
his face away. 

The doctor opened a vein ; she shuddered to 
see the blood run into the basin ; she began to 
make complaint when all his bandaging would 
not stop the bleeding and her pillow began to be 
stained with the quick-spreading red. 

Monsieur Vyelen had lost his nerve and cut 
too deeply. Madame de la Fayette had to hold 
Madame's arm up. Monsieur moved away ; the 
sight of blood made him sick. 

Madame, lamentably feeble, strove with a 
clutching fear of death and demanded the con- 
fessor. They endeavoured to dispersuade her, 
vowing she was better. She shook her head with 
such a look of anguish that they cleared the room 
and brought the priest. 

Madame de la Fayette remained, holding her up. 

She was too weak to do more than repeat the 
formula of the church. WTien the priest had gone 
she lay back and tried hard to think of her real 
sins, but hopeless confusion engulfed her. 

God was so shadowy. No one had ever told 
her what He wanted of her ; she had thought 
very little about Him, very little about death. 

167 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

She wondered if it would ever be remembered 
to her that she was very young. What did it 
mean to be good ? She had never wilfully injured 
any one, she had never felt wicked ; but she hoped 
God would remember she was very young. For a 
while this thought gave her some ease ; then it 
flashed across her mind that the Queen was no older, 
and the Queen was virtuous, obviously virtuous. 

La Valliere also ; she knew Louise de la Valliere 
was a good woman and one whom she had shame- 
fully treated. 

Surely her sins were not difficult to remember 
now. She fell out of Madame de la Fayette's 
arms and lay silent on the pillow. The room had 
filled again ; the King's physician, M. Vallot, had 
arrived. 

He was an old man and pompous ; he came 
to the bedside and Madame lifted her head. 

*' Thank you for your attention. Monsieur," 
she said. " But I am poisoned. Unless you can 
treat me for that " She sank down again. 

Monsieur Vallot smiled. 

There was no danger, he said ; it was merely 
the pain that frightened her. He retired to con- 
sult with the other doctors. 

M. le Prince came to see her ; she seemed pleased 
and tried to look at him, but he wore a black and 
gold brocade, and the candle light on it dazzled 
her. She half closed her eyes. 

" I am dying," she murmured. 

M. le Prince was greatly moved ; he tried to 
tell her that she was better. 

168 



THE CUP OF CHICORY WATER 

She shook her head and asked what time it was. 

" Nine o'clock, Madame," he answered. 

She asked if they might have the window 
open, and complained of the heat ; but no one 
dared for fear of the doctor. 

Then Madame caught hold of Monsieur le 
Prince's arm so as to draw him down to her, and 
breathed the question she had so longed to ask. 

" The King — does he know ? Is he coming ? " 

The news was at Versailles, he told her ; but 
no one thought her dying — she was not dying. 

Monsieur came to her bedside. M. Vallot, he 
said, had come to him four times and assured him 
on his Hfe that there was no danger ; the other 
doctors had agreed with him, and he had returned 
to Versailles. 

Madame looked at the pink figure of her husband 
and the jasmine drooping in his buttonhole. 

" I know my state better than the doctors," 
she said ; *' and I think there is no remedy." 

Her husband moved away with M. le Prince. 
Every one in the room seemed talking together ; 
their voices echoed in her head horribly. She 
tried to compose her thoughts, but could not. 
If she might only have some respite from her 
pain ! Why did not the King come ? 

Mme d'Epernon brought her a draught of senna 
that M. Vallot had ordered. 

She drank it, and Mme Gamaches, approaching, 
said that the King had sent for news. 

" Tell his Majesty I am dying," said Madame. 
Not content with that, she asked them to send 

169 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

M. dc Creqiii to Versailles to say that she was in 
great peril. 

Meanwhile no remedy had given her any ease ; 
she asked if they could not bring her something 
to assuage her anguish. 

M. Vyelen answered that she must wait ; in 
two hours the senna would relieve her. 

" Oh, my God ! " cried Madame. '' If you 
were in my pain you would not speak so quietly 
of waiting." 

For a while she tossed and twisted from side 
to side. People surged in and out of the room ; 
none of them believed that she was in any danger ; 
the doctor insisted that she was not, that in a 
while the pain would pass, that the coldness of 
her hands and feet was only an ordinary symptom 
of a chill. 

Presently she called out that she would be 
moved ; the bed had grown hot and uncomfort- 
able and intolerable. There was a little bed in 
her dressing-room ; they wrapped her in a blue 
silk mantle and Monsieur and two of her ladies 
carried her there. She was shght — of the weight 
of a child. 

The clearer atmosphere of the dressing-room 
and the cool bed seemed to relieve her ; she lay 
still, swathed in her mantle, her auburn hair, that 
was marvellously fine, in disorder on the pillow. 

On the table by the bed stood a couple of candles, 
and by the light of these they saw her face more 
clearly than when she was in the curtained bed. 
And it startled them. 

170 



THE CUP OF CHICORY WATER 

" Do the candles trouble you ? " asked Mon- 
sieur, his voice unsteady. 

" No, Monsieur," she answered. " Nothing 
troubles me. To-morrow morning I shall be 
dead." 

Why did not the King come ? 

As she had eaten nothing since dinner, they 
brought her some supper on a silver tray ; Mon- 
sieur showed some tenderness in holding it for her 
and in insisting that she should take something 
which at first she could not bring herself to ; but 
at last she thanked him with a look and drank 
some soup. All at once her agony became so 
terrible that they thought she must die on the 
instant : she shook and stiffened with torment, 
like one at the stake ; her face turned an ashy 
hue and glistened with moisture ; the pupils of 
her eyes contracted and dilated. 

*' I am poisoned," she said. 

Some wept to see her cruel sufferings. Mon- 
sieur sat by her side and held her hand. 

There was a commotion in the ante-chamber — • 
in the bedroom ; the door was flung open, and a 
gentleman in brown and gold, carrying his hat, 
entered, behind him M. de Crequi. 

'' The King," said Monsieur. 
' Louis came half-way across the dressing-room. 

" The doctors wish to see you. Monsieur," he 
said ; he was very pale and frowning. 

All the light in the chamber was about the bed 
of Madame, where the candles burnt in their silver 
sticks and shone full on her pillow. 

171 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

All beauty had been wiped from her face like 
paint from a mask. Against the blue of her robe 
and the ghmmering hue of her hair her face was 
like gray wax ; the blood had come through the 
bandages on her arm in a red stain — but he, to her 
vision was as godlike, as golden glorious as ever. 

As he came up to her she controlled her pain 
with an heroic effort. 

" Sire, you lose one of your truest servants 
to-night," she said. 

He answered in great agitation — 

"' You are not dying ; I will not beheve it " 

He seemed afraid to come too near to her ; 
she spoke calmly, with a world of wild feeling in 
her eyes. 

" You know I am not afraid of death — but I 
am afraid of losing your good thoughts " 

" Talk of God, Madame," he repUed hoarsely. 

" Louis — I am dying," she said. " Come and 
speak to me — close." 

She made a Uttle feeble movement with her 
hand, and the King came up to her bed. 

" I am poisoned," she repeated ; it seemed 
she wished to drive him to accept the statement 
to accuse some one. 

" l^ou show great courage, Madame," he said, 
and looked at her in a terrified manner. 

" I have never been afraid," she repeated, 
'* but I do not want to die." 

" I will see your doctors," he said. " There 
must be some remedy." 

He turned away, seemed glad to go. 
172 



THE CUP OF CHICORY WATER 

Madame clutched hold of Mme de la Fayette. 
" I am horrible. Give me a mirror." 

She reached out and caught up a heavy glass 
from her dressing-table ; her frail strength could 
hardly Hft it. She looked in it a second, then 
dropped it on the quilt. 

" Madame de la Fayette," she said, " my nose 
has shrunk " 

The lady could only weep. It was true ; her 
nose had sunk into her face with a ghastly and 
corpse-like effect. She tossed herself about ; whether 
in bodily or mental agony it was impossible to tell. 

Mme de Gamaches came to say that Mme de la 
Valli^re and Mme de Montespan had come together. 

" Admit neither of them," said Madame. She 
sent Mme de la Fayette out to them. 

The two would share the crown she had left. 
Why had they come now ? They must be glad 
she was dying — not la ValHere perhaps ; she was 
a gentle woman. 

It was now eleven o'clock, and the doctors 
suddenly informed the King that there was no 
hope ; and those symptoms that two hours before 
they had vowed meant nothing they now declared 
the certain signs of gangrene and approaching 
death, and advised that Madame took the Holy 
Sacrament. 

The King accused them of losing their heads. 
Monsieur fought his way into the dressing-room 
where Madame lay and told her, in an agitated 
manner, what they had said. 

"So I have their permission to die ? " She 
173 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

gave a tragic smile and fixed her eyes on her 
husband. " Where is the King ? " 

As she spoke he returned with the Queen and 
Mme de Soissons. 

Madame lay silent ; the King approached her 
bed ; he railed against the doctors : he seemed 
confused, bewildered. 

" I am no physician," he said, " but I could 
have suggested thirty remedies they have not 
tried, and now they say there is no hope." 

He stood irresolute, looking at her ; the candle- 
light could give no colour to his fair face. She 
could not beheve that he would not send away 
the others and sit by her till the end ; she waited 
for that. For some tenderness on his part, some 
passion, some regret, she waited ; he came up to 
her bed, kissed her hands and bade her adieu. 

" Adieu ! " she echoed. She thought she saw 
tears in his eyes. " Do not weep for me yet, 
Sire. The first news you hear in the morning will 
be of my death ; weep then." 

She turned her face away from him and he 
withdrew with Mme de Soissons. Hearing him go, 
she moved sharply and opened her eyes. 

Close to her stood the stooping figure of Maria 
Teresa. 

Madame looked at her curiously ; a few days 
ago she had seen another Spanish Queen with the 
same look of grave suffering in her face, the butt 
of her brother's court. How often she had laughed 
at both of them — but now — she suddenly stretched 
out her arms with an eager gesture. 

174 



THE CUP OF CHICORY WATER 

The Queen's face changed ; she moved back. 

" God forgive you, Madame la Duchesse," she 
said in a voice torn and broken. " God have 
mercy on you." With that she burst into tears 
and hurried from the room, the light running 
down her silver dress. 

Madame was silent ; she lay with her hand 
over her eyes until they came to move her back 
into her own bed that had been re-made. 

Then she asked for the King. 

He had returned, she was told, to Versailles. 

She never mentioned his name again. With his 
departure all hope and desire of life had gone ; he 
had fled, forsaken her. She almost wished to die 
now, so that she might have respite from her 
pain. 

The Marechal de Granmont was brought to 
her bedside ; she told him that she was poisoned 
and bid him farewell. 

She began to cough. 

*' It is the death cough," she said. ** Do you 
remember how my mother coughed just before she 
died ? " She then asked how long she had to live, 
and expressed again her desire to confess. 

The King had gone and the doctors had said 
there was no hope. 

She thought no more of life ; she made no 
complaint of her terrible and sudden death, of her 
cruel agonies ; she made no reflection on the 
bitterness of dying in the midst of triumph, in the 
flower of her youth ; she tried to face the certainty 
of approaching Death with what courage she might ; 

175 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

she tried to realise a thing that till now she had 
never thought of. 

She confessed again to M. Feuillet ; he was a 
stern priest, and exhorted her in a severe fashion. 
When he had finished a Capuchin Father, her usual 
confessor, began to speak to her. 

His discourse wearied her ; she was trying to 
realise God for herself. The room was full of 
people ; she saw them in a blur behind the figures 
of the two priests : she heard their talking, their 
sobbing. She noted the lines of her bed curtains, 
of her coverlet, and these things troubled her. 

Presently another figure came to her bedside. 
After a moment she knew him — Lord Montagu, 
the Enghsh Ambassador. She thought of her 
brother. 

" Tell him — that none loved him better than 
I " Her voice failed. 

My Lord answered her in English. 

" Are you poisoned, Madame ? I have heard 
it said. Is it true ? " 

" Yes. But in error — I accuse no one. Do 
not tell my brother ; he might wish to take 
vengeance " 

Here M. Feuillet interrupted ; she had spoken 
in English, but he had caught the word " poison." 

" Think of nothing but God, Madame — leaving 
these earthly matters." 

She held up her hand. 

" My Lord — that diamond ring ; take it to 
my brother." 

He drew it from her finger. 
176 



THE CUP OF CHICORY WATER 

" Tell him I regret nothing so much as his grief. 
Tell the Duke of York— that— also." 

As she said no more the Ambassador drew back 
into the crowded chamber. 

Madame became weaker ; an intense chillness 
had succeeded her heat ; her hands and feet were 
cold ; it seemed to her that her heart had almost 
stopped. With a sudden unutterable pang she 
remembered her keys. Monsieur would get them ; 
he would read her papers, her letters. If she had 
only known last night 

Now he would see how she had lied to him 



She strove to put this thought from her ; he 
was the master now and she helpless. 

The Capuchin continued his discourse ; she 
prayed him, very sweetly, to leave her in peace 
for a while. 

She received the Holy Eucharist ; to her it was 
a blur of gold vessels, a murmur of words. She 
fainted three times while they administered it. 

Another doctor arrived ; he advised a bleeding 
in her foot. 

" Then you must make haste," she whispered. 

Her head was whirhng ; she felt that the room 
had grown immense, that a great multitude was 
about her — talking, whispering, sobbing. 

She never asked for her children and no one 
thought to speak of them or bring them ; but' they 
sent for M. de Condom. 

She felt her foot bared and the prick of the 
lancet ; as they bathed it they cried out she was 
dying. Very httle blood came. 

177 N 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

They gave her extreme unction. 

She felt herself now in a soft darkness, striving 
for the light ; she thought that this light would 
either blast or comfort her — and that it was God. 

She called out for her husband ; he came 
instantly. 

" Will you leave the room now, Monsieur ? " 
she asked. " Have you my keys ? " 

" Yes, Madame." 

" Be merciful," she whispered piteously. 
*' Adieu, Monsieur." 

He embraced her silently and went away, 
leaving her to her darkness. 

The clock struck two. M. de Condom arrived ; 
she saw him, heard that he was speaking to her 
but she did not know what he said. The lapping 
darkness was wrapping her ; she saw through it 
glimmering points of candles and weeping faces ; 
she saw, too, Exeter towers, very plainly, and the 
laughing eyes of M. de Guiche. 

Then the mists cleared, and she beheld every- 
thing in a bright, strong light. She turned to a 
woman who bent over her pillow and said in 
Enghsh — 

" When I am dead give M. de Condom the 
emerald ring I am havmg made for him." 

Her natural courtesy spared his thanks by 
speaking in a language he did not understand. 
Her agonies were suddenly ceased ; she turned 
on her side with a soft sigh. 

" I think I could sleep," she said to M. de 
Condom. '' May I, for a little— sleep ? " 

178 



THE CUP OF CHICORY WATER 

He said " Yes," and that he would go and 
pray for her. He descended the steps of her bed ; 
he had hardly crossed the room before she called 
to him in a sweet voice — 

" It has come. I am dying." 

He returned to her bedside and held out the 
crucifix. She half raised herself ; her pale, lovely 
hair hung about her blue wrap. She took the 
crucifix in her hands and clasped it to her bosom. 
The darkness was lifting — behind Exeter towers ; 
she saw the Thames as she had seen it from the 
windows of Whitehall ; she heard the priest's 
voice reciting the prayers for the dying. Her 
lips were on the crucifix ; she gave the responses, 
but her thoughts were not in the words. The 
light brightened into a dazzle that blotted every- 
thing out. She let the crucifix fall and sank back 
on her pillow. The clock chimed the haK hour. 
She moved her lips convulsively and died — after 
nine hours of agony. 

The King was asleep at Versailles and Monsieur 
was in her private cabinet, weeping furiously and 
tearing up the multitude of her love-letters by 
the Hght of a trembling candle flame. 

M. de Condom, preaching her funeral sermon, 
displayed her as a Christian Princess, entirely 
virtuous. 



179 



THE BURNING OF THE VANITIES 

Being an Account of the Last Day of Carnival 

AND the Vision of Girolamo Savonarola 

in the City of Florence, 1497 

" Behold, the sky shall be darkened ! Behold, 
it shall rain fire and flame, stones and rocks ; it 
shall be wild weather. I have placed ye between 
four winds," saith the Lord — namely, prelates, 
princes, priests and bad citizens. 

" Fly from their vices ; gather ye together in 
charity. Fly from Rome, Florence, and come 
to repentance ! The Lord saith : ' I will debase 
the princes of Italy and trample on the pride of 
Rome ; then, Italy, trouble after trouble shall 
befall thee, trouble from this side and from that — 
rumours from the east, rumours from the west, 
from all sides rumour after rumour.' 

" Then men shall yearn for the visions of the 
prophets, and shall have them not, for the Lord 
saith, ' Now do I prophesy in my turn.' " 

So ended the sermon of Fra Girolamo, preached 
from a temporary pulpit erected in front of the 
church of Santa Maria del Fiore, the last day of 
the Carnival of the year fourteen hundred and 
ninety-seven, the third year since the expulsion 

180 



THE BURNING OF THE VANITIES 

of the Medici, the third year of the Friar's rule in 
Florence. 

The monks of St. Mark's were gathered about 
the pulpit, and round them the Piangoni, the 
active supporters of the Friar ; beyond them the 
crowd filled the Piazza from end to end, a crowd 
reverent, silent, excited. 

It was a windless spring ; the odours of the 
flowers in the fields without hung in the breezeless 
air and filled the city streets with perfume. Above 
the fine straight lines of the houses and the majestic 
shape of the church the sky hung pure of cloud 
and deeply blue as an early violet. 

Fra Girolamo paused, gripping the smooth 
edge of the pulpit, and looked across the gathered 
multitude. 

He wore the habit of the Friars of St. Mark, a 
loose coarse brown robe and a hood and shoulder- 
piece in one that fitted closely round his face and 
neck. He was of the middle height, stooping a 
little and gaunt ; his features were harsh and 
rudely modelled, his complexion dark and sickly, 
cheeks and forehead lined with deep furrows, his 
nose a heavy aquiline, his eyes large, expressive 
and of a sparkling grey tint ; his thick but mobile 
lips were at that moment compressed in a firmness 
that had the sweetness of true strength. Truly 
that expression of noble gentleness illumined the 
whole ungainly countenance, softened the un- 
lovely lines and gave divine dignity to the common 
features. 

As he stood so, motionless, the monks began 
181 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

to sing psalms and the crowd went to their knees 
on the paving stones of the great Piazza, their 
coloured garments shifting and changing in light 
and shade as they moved. When the men's voices 
sank on the last pulse of the holy music that rose 
like incense on the clear thin air, Fra Girolamo 
took the Host, and raising it with his right hand 
lifted the left in blessing of the kneeling press of 
worshippers. 

The great and stately door of the church was 
a fitting background for the frail figure holding the 
Host of God which gleamed in the lucid rays of 
the sun that struck straight from heaven on it, 
like a mystical jewel fed with inner light. 

Fra Girolamo flashed his eyes over the crowd, 
among whom he could distinguish several of the 
Compagnacci, adherents of the vanished Medici, 
and many of the Arrabbiati, his bitter foes who had 
threatened to revive the old orgies of the Medicean 
rule, the pagan and splendid carnival of Lorenzo, 
called the Magnificent, now for years since dead 
in sin. 

A strong excitement shook the slender frame 
of the Friar ; his countenance became blanched 
with the intense emotion that inspired him. In 
a trembling but powerful voice he cried — 

" Lord, if my deeds be not sincere, if my words 
be not inspired by Thee, strilvc me dead on the 
instant." 

The Host was lowered and the people rose from 
their knees ; but the Friar remained in the wooden 
pulpit. 



THE BURNING OF THE VANITIES 

Now the crowd drew back and made way for 
a strange procession that was wending across the 
Piazza. 

It was headed by four fair-headed youths 
attired in white, who bore between them a marble 
figure of the Infant Christ, pointing with one hand 
to a wreath of thorns and raising the other in 
benediction ; this was the work of Donato di 
Bardi, a famous sculptor. After came a company 
also in white and carrying in their hands red crosses, 
singing the lauds and hymns of Girolamo Benivieni 
in sweet and eager voices. 

Behind them followed men and women soberly 
dressed who collected from the crowd, holding out 
on silver trays the alms they received ; they were 
begging on behalf of the Monte di Pieta, and had 
already amassed more gold than had been given 
in charity in Florence during a year of the old 
Medicean order. 

Next there came a vast number of children 
decently and quietly dressed, some singing, some 
repeating prayers, all carrying, dragging or support- 
ing between them a strange and varied number 
of objects — books, dresses, pictures, statues, masks, 
false hair, boxes and cases of perfume, lutes, viols, 
mirrors, ornaments, gauds, manuscripts, cards, 
dice, cosmetics, chess-boards, cups and balls of 
gold, and all manner of rich, precious trifles and 
beautiful gorgeous examples of art. 

These were the vanities that had been collected 
during the Carnival by the very children who, 
under the rule of Lorenzo, had sung and danced, 

183 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

fought and played profane games in the streets 
they now traversed in orderly procession ; then 
with the Carnival verses of the Medici on their 
lips, now with holy hymns. 

From every house in Florence they had 
demanded all vanities to be given to them, and 
when they received the offerings they sang a 
devotional work composed by Fra Girolamo. Now 
laden with these relics of the old pagan rule, they 
were making their way to the Piazza dei Signori, 
there to complete the purging of Florence by 
publicly burning the vanities that had been so 
long her temptation and her curse. 

The Friar descended from the pulpit and joined 
the procession in company with his personal sup- 
porters ; chanting and rejoicing, the children 
made their joyful way, dragging with them the 
trophies of luxury and wantonness, whose perfume 
of musk, ambergris and nard gave a heaviness 
to the air as they passed. 

Fra Girolamo held himself, as was his habit, 
modestly, and kept his eye low in real humility ; 
but in his great heart was a wild exultation that 
this city of his love had responded to the agonies 
of his exhortation and was turning from the 
wickedness of Borgia and Medici to the strong 
face of God. 

Beneath his rough and long robe beat a spirit 
so lofty and enthusiastic that had it not been 
hampered and held down to earth by the poor 
enfeebled body it had walked on the heads of all 
of them and conversed with Angels. 

184 



THE BURNING OF THE VANITIES 

But since He who made the soul of this Friar 
directed these things for His own ends, Fra Giro- 
lamo, who bore in his bosom a burning Hght of 
truth that might have served to redeem the world, 
worked in the wicked, lovely city of Florence and 
spent his strength to redeem this little circle of 
beloved sinners. 

When the procession reached the Piazza there 
was found to be a great eight-sided pyramid there, 
built up in the centre of the square and reaching 
near as high as the Palace of the Signori ; there 
were seven stages to this, one for each of the 
deadly sins. On the apex stood two grotesque 
and glittering figures, robed in gemmed satin and 
wearing high-coloured crowns ; one was King 
Carnival, the old monarch of the wanton Medicean 
orgies ; and in his monstrous, under- jawed face 
and princely garb, in his straight heavy locks 
and the velvet cap under the circlet of sovereignty, 
might be traced a mahcious likeness to the magni- 
ficent Lorenzo, purposely contrived by the artificer 
as an affront to the banished House. 

The other figure was Lucifer, horned, black, 
and hideous, bearing in the lap of his scarlet robes 
seven little images representing the seven mortal sins. 

The procession paused ; the men and women 
arranging themselves under the Loggia de' Lanzi 
and along the Pinghiera, while the children advanced 
two at a time, and deposited their loads on the 
various platforms, where the soldiers of the Signori 
arranged them in piles from the bottom to the base 
of the pyramid. 

185 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

So much had been collected, so many and various 
were the costly offerings, that several hours passed 
before the final vanity was cast on to the heap 
and the children retired to a great circle round the 
Piazza ; but all this while there had been no sign 
of weariness or impatience on the part of the people, 
who continued with great spirit and gladness to 
sing their lauds and hymns, mingled with denuncia- 
tions of the Carnival. 

Fra Girolamo stood back from the pile with 
his hands folded in the sleeves of his robe ; his 
face was largely concealed by the shadow of his 
hood, which he had partially drawn forward, 
and he conveyed neither by word nor gesture 
fanatic rejoicing or common triumph. Rather 
was his mien sad and grave, as if he weighed 
what was being done and pondered on that far 
greater cleansing of Florence of which this was but 
a symbol — the cleansing of the hearts of her citizens. 

Truly when the last child cast down his burden 
and withdrew, it was a marvellous sight of worldly 
splendour to behold ; all these gauds and glories 
cast together in this heap under the calm spring 
sky, half in the shadow of the palace and other 
noble buildings and half sparkling and glittering 
in the clear gold of the early sunshine, fainting 
in the approach of afternoon. Eich and valuable 
were these vanities, worth many thousands of 
ducats ; a merchant of Venice had offered to buy 
them for the vast sum of twenty thousand crowns, 
and the portrait of this man was flung on top of 
the other baubles. 

186 



THE BURNING OF THE VANITIES 

Carnival costumes were there of satin, silk and 
tinsel ; chaplets and garlands of false flowers ; 
locks and wigs of artificial hair, masks painted and 
gilt ; necklets, bracelets and brocade shoes, girdles, 
ribbons and playing cards ; chess-men in ivory, silver 
and ebony ; fans in feathers dyed bright colours ; 
books of profane poems with pictures tinted and 
gilt ; lutes, viols and pipes painted and carved ; 
boxes, bottles and caskets of cosmetics, powders, 
philtres and charms ; statues and busts of pagan 
gods and goddesses, white marble, veined marble, 
and time-stained alabaster ; mirrors set in copper, 
gold and silver ; toy daggers for ladies with handles 
of jade, sardonyx and emerald ; watches of crystal, 
of filigree, of enamel ; caskets of perfumes ; paint- 
ings of wanton figures, of beautiful women, of 
heathen scenes ; velvet purses embroidered with 
armorial bearings ; gauntlets stitched thickly 
with silver thread and pearl ; mantles edged with 
vair and sable ; sword-hilts fringed with knotted 
silk and gold ; pins for the hair set with rubies and 
sapphires ; false faces and gaudy finery for the 
carnival ; statues in bronze, in gilt, in silver ; 
enamel cups and drinking-horns bound with a 
rim of precious stones ; cushions of brocade and 
down ; boxes of ointment, of unguents ; phials 
of rare perfumes ; caskets of sweetmeats, bags of 
confetti, dice, parti-coloured playing balls, and 
many trifling things composed the pile. And with 
the glimmer of the gems, the shining of the gold and 
silver, the soft gleam of the rich stuffs, the flash of 
glass and crystal, the strange fantastic look of 

187 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

mask and carnival garment, it seemed as if the 
ransom of some monarch of the east, a pasha of 
\ Turkey or some potentate of Rhodes or Candy 
Isle was gathered there. 

Now an excited and trembling silence of ex- 
pectancy fell upon the crowd ; four of the soldiers 
of the Signori stepped forward with flaming torches 
that showed pale and smoky in the daylight, and 
as Fra Girolamo raised his hand they lit the four 
corners of the pile, the interior of which was filled 
with combustibles. 

As the flames hesitated, crouched, then seized 
hold and caught their prey, the trumpeters of 
Florence blew a blast of triumph, the bells broke 
out from the palace and the people gave free vent 
to their wild enthusiasm. 

The Friar did not move nor even lift his eyes 
to the opulent sacrifice ; the thick soft smoke 
spread sideways in a sudden little gust of wind 
and half obscured his figure. 

The people burst out of their ordered ranks ; 
they laughed, shouted, sang their spiritual lauds 
and crowded about the huge costly bonfire in a press 
of delirious pleasure ; the Piangoni stood near and 
by the aid of long poles thrust the vanities deeper 
into the flames and cast back any that had slipped, 
chanting the while the hymns of Girolamo 
Benivieni. 

The Friar maintained his position ; his lips 
moved as if he ardently communed with himself ; 
so absorbed was he in his own meditations that he 
did not notice a man standing close, and also 

188 



THE BURNING OF THE VANITIES 

motionless amid the circling and excited throng, 
who was observing him with intense and peculiar 
attention. 

This man, although he wore the sober mantle 
of an ordinary citizen, and though he appeared to 
be there in sympathy with the general religious 
enthusiasm, was nevertheless in air and appearance 
one of the Arrabbiati or Compagnacci, who intrigued 
with the outcast Medici and hated the Friar, though 
they submitted to a force they could not withstand 
with safety as yet. 

He was wrapped so completely in his dark 
cloak, the hood of which was well drawn over his 
face, that had any been free enough to observe him 
they would have had difficulty in judging of his 
person and character ; the thick folds of the 
common stuff, however, could not disguise the 
virile grace of his figure, the beautiful poise of his 
head and the delicate shape of his feet and of the 
hand that clasped his hood at the chin. 

The excited people and friars, breaking into 
a kind of religious dance, ran round and about this 
man, and in between him and Fra Girolamo ; 
but he did not move nor once take his eyes from 
the equally still figure of the Friar, save to occasion- 
ally lift them to the pjnre of the Vanities, now a 
burning cone of flames from base to apex, from 
which rose thick columns of sweet, heavy-scented 
smoke. 

The slow Italian dusk was closing in ; the sky 
deepened above the palace and the towers, the 
roofs and domes of Florence. The smoke, spreading, 

189 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

filled the Piazza and gave a cloudy unreality to 
the moving crowd who circled the strengthening 
light of the fire. 

On the upper part of the buildings a pale 
sun-glow lingered; but the Lion on the Palace 
steps was absorbed in shade save for the flickering 
unearthly glow that the burning vanities emitted 
and that now and then touched the surroundings 
with a murky crimson reflection. 

All the while the bells of the Signori were 
pealing, and the music of them rose and fell with 
the hymns. Fra Girolamo suddenly looked up 
at the flames, the cracking canvas, shrivelling 
silks, splitting marbles, melting gold and silver, 
flaring scrolls of manuscript and smokmg boxes 
of perfumes that composed the pyre ; then, with 
bowed head, made his way quickly and unobserved 
through the crowd and out of the Piazza. He was 
instantly and closely followed by the tall stranger 
who had so persistently regarded him, and who 
now came softly after without attracting his 
attention. 

The streets were deserted ; every one being 
gathered in or near the Piazza, and the Friar passed 
unnoticed before the front? of the tall, carved 
houses ; he was swiftly making his way to the 
Convent of St. Mark, and had turned down an 
empty side street, deep in shade, when he suddenly 
paused, as if inwardly troubled, and, turning slowly, 
beheld the stranger who had also come to a stop a 
few paces behind him. 

Fra Girolamo regarded him earnestly ; they 
190 



THE BURNING OF THE VANITIES 

were alone in the street at the bottom of which 
was a glimpse of the Arno's arched bridge ; behind 
them rose the steps and closed door of a hospital, 
above the garden wall of which showed cypress 
trees and branches of laurel. 

'' You," said the tall man in sweet and culti- 
vated Tuscan, " you are Era Girolamo Savonarola, 
friar of St. Mark's and ruler of Florence ? " 

" Girolamo Savonarola I am," answered the 
Friar ; " ruler of Florence I am not, but God's 
instrument for some good in this city." 

The other, still speaking from the depths of 
the coarse hood that completely concealed his 
face, made reply — 

" Kuler and Master of Florence, Friar, even as 
Lorenzo was Kuler and Master, even as the Medici 
were great are you great, and to-day you have 
had proof of it." 

" Who are you ? " demanded Fra Girolamo. 

*' One who loved Lorenzo and found Florence 
pleasant in his days." 

" I did not hate Lorenzo — I would have saved 
his soul." 

" You refused him absolution ! " 

'' Because," replied the Friar, '' he would not 
repent of his sins." 

The stranger laughed impatiently. 

" Usurper ! You hold his place, while his son, 
at the Borgia's footstool, eats in Rome the husks 
of charity." 

Fra Girolamo answered sternly, while the light 
of enthusiasm kindled to red fire in his eyes. 

191 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

"' Who are you who speak for the wicked 1 
Piero de' Medici abused his power ; he would 
have sold our liberty to the French — lustful, vain, 
hollow ; he was banished Florence for his sins 
and a price put upon his head. Woe to this city 
if he returns ! At the Borgia's footstool, you say ! 
It is fitting that such a prince should fly to such 
a Pope ! " 

The stranger came a short step nearer and 
loosened his hand on his hood so that his face was 
visible to the Friar, who observed that he wore 
one of the hideous masks of the Medicean Carnival, 
mottled and spotted to represent a plague-stricken 
countenance ; he noticed the Friar's start of 
aversion and laughed again. 

" This should have gone to feed yonder pyre ! " 
he said. " Oh, credulous Friar, do you think 
that you have burnt all the sins in Florence ? " 

Girolamo Savonarola answered simply. 

" I have done what God put it into my heart 
to do. Let Him judge me. For you, ask me what 
question you would have answered, or if this is 
but idleness, let me on my way." 

" This is your day of triumph," said the other 
man with a passionate ring in his voice. " You 
to-day have burnt all the Medici rejoiced in — paint- 
ing, statuary, music, books, poetry, gay dresses, 
perfumes, cards and dice ; and those people who 
praised Lorenzo for making this Florence so 
beautiful and splendid have danced round your 
pyre in gladness ! " 

Fra Girolamo regarded him steadily. 
192 



THE BURNING OF THE VANITIES 

" Are not you also," he asked gently, " pleased 
to see this city brought a little way to repentance ? " 

'' Friar," answered the stranger vehemently, 
" I am your enemy. I stand for all you would 
destroy — the lust of the world, the pride of the 
beautiful, the power of the devil. I am also a 
ruined, outcast, beggared man, one of those your 
rule has banished from Florence. If I were dis- 
covered I should be murdered, and that would be 
better than to starve in Home." 

" Your name ? " interrupted Fra Girolamo. 
" Are you one whom I know ? " 

" You know me," was the haughty response ; 
*' but my name is not pleasing to your ears. You 
I hate, ay, and all your works ; but there is a day 
soon when all hates shall be satisfied." 

Girolamo Savonarola made quiet answer. 

" If you are a follower of Piero de' Medici, I 
warn you to quit Florence, for I cannot and would 
not save one of the tyrant's tools from the just 
anger of the People — the People ! — in them is my 
trust against these evils you threaten me with." 

He turned to pass on his way, but the young 
man sprang lightly after him and caught his 
mantle. 

" The People ! " he laughed. " Did not the 
People shout for Lorenzo yesterday? Will they 
not shout for Piero to-morrow ! " 

Fra Girolamo looked at him with serene eyes. 

" Never for the Medici," he answered. " Never 
for the tyrant. Florence is free." 

*' You are a bold man to say so," returned the 
193 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

stranger, standing at his ease, with one foot on the 
lowest hospital step. " Free ! No, Florence is 
no freer than she was five years ago ; only now 
it is you who rule instead of the Magnificent. But 
not for long, Friar." 

*' Again, who are you who stay me in the street 
with these prophecies ? " 

The sun had left even the tops of the buildings 
now, and the lucid light was fading from the heavens 
where an early star hung chill and pale above the 
Duomo ; the black foliage of the cypress and the 
sharp, long leaves of the laurel showed clearly 
over the wall and against the argent flush of twi- 
light ; a little fear crept into the Friar's heart, 
not base fear, or cowardice, or any trembling for 
himself, but the shadow of some coming doubt 
lest after all he had not saved Florence ; in the tall, 
dark-robed figure of the stranger, now standing 
with his arms folded on his breast and regardmg 
him with eyes that shot evil glimmers from the 
holes in the mottled green and yellow mask, in 
this man with his settled enmity, his mocking 
composure, he saw testified all the hatred, scorn and 
malice that had opposed his life-work. 

" Begone ! " he said sternly, " and disturb me 
not." 

The stranger gave him a disdainful salutation 
and flung up his graceful head. 

" Back to your cell, and pray the people in 
whom you trust keep faithful ! " he cried lightly. 
" Two thousand crowns to-day for the head of 
Piero de' Medici — how much in a year's time for 

194 



THE BURNING OF THE VANITIES 

thine, Friar, when Alessandro Borgia cries you 
excommunicate "? " 

Fra Girolamo stepped away and his dark eyes 
lifted to the evening sky. 

" The Pope is a broken tool, a vile trader in 
holy things," he answered with great dignity. 
*' And in Florence, where I am beloved, his authority 
is worth nothing ; here the voice of God alone is 
strong." 

'* And the voice of the People," returned the 
stranger mockingly ; and with a low, insulting 
laugh he moved slowly away and was soon lost in 
the shadows. 

Girolamo Savonarola gazed after him a moment, 
then proceeded on his way, a strange excitement 
throbbing in his veins and before his eyes a misti- 
ness of familiar objects, as if an unnatural darkness 
had fallen. 

He walked for a while in this manner, meeting 
no one, marvelling at the curious emptiness of the 
city and the increasing blackness ; everything 
seemed strange and unusual. He thought he should 
have reached his Convent by now, but instead 
found himself traversing dark, empty streets that 
were those of Florence yet unknown to him. He 
turned to retrace his steps, but was Uke one groping 
in the labyrinth, roads and houses crossed and re- 
crossed, and he wandered confused. Nowhere was 
there any light, in either window or in the heaven ; 
he had lost sight of the Duomo and the star above 
it ; as if the Plague had crept through the city 
was the silence and the loneliness. 

195 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

Then out of the empty hush came the sound 
as of harsh wings beating together, and a voice 
cried strongly — 

" Girolamo Savonarola ! " 

The Friar cast up his eyes to the blinding mist 
and answered — 

" I am here ! " 

And the voice made reply — 

" Come thou and see how the people of Florence 
love thee ! " 

With great rejoicing he said, *' I come ! " 

Forward he pressed through the obscurity, and 
the darkness began to be tinged with red and dis- 
pelled as from the spreading glow of flames, and 
as Fra Girolamo hastened on he found himself 
suddenly on the Piazza again, standing apart from 
a vast crowd that was dancing and singing about 
a huge fire that lit the whole black sky and stained 
the blank buildings with a lurid colour. 

And the voice said, very low and in the Friar's 
ear — 

" These are the people who sang the songs 
of Lorenzo de' Medici, the people who burnt 
the vanities. Behold what task they perform 
now ! " 

Fra Girolamo looked and saw that the crowd 
was very brilliantly dressed, that the women wore 
jewels and paints, the men fine silks and rich 
weapons, and that they danced in a mad profane 
style ; many were masked and all wreathed with 
flowers, and the heavy scents they were anointed 
with hung in the thick air ; nor did they sing 

196 



THE BURNING OF THE VANITIES 

hymns, but the wanton carnival songs of Lorenzo 
de' Medici. 

And in the midst of their reckless rejoicing 
flared and blazed the vivid devouring flames, 
soaring one above the other until they far over- 
topped the dark palace ; the deep crimson glow 
of them picked out from the darkness the painted, 
leering faces, the evil masks, the leaping, dancing, 
abandoned forms. 

" This is not Florence," murmured the Friar. 

" This is Florence," came the answer. ** And 
these are the people — thy people " 

Fra Girolamo felt a hand on his shoulder, and 
withdrawing his horrified eyes from the devilish 
crowd, saw at his side the tall figure of the stranger 
who had accosted him before the hospital. 

" Look closer," he urged. " Look closer. 
What vain things do they burn now 1 Not cards? 
lutes and paintings. Look closer." 

The Friar again gazed at the Piazza, and this 
time discerned above the flames the outline of a 
huge gallows from which depended several bodies, 
hung by the necks, and the blood of these men 
rained down on to the fire, for the crowd with 
jeering and laughter threw stones at them that 
broke their flesh. 

" They wear monks' habits," said Fra Girolamo, 
and he strained forward. 

At this moment the fire consumed the rope 
holding one of the victims, and as the crowd gave 
a shout of rejoicing he fell into the white heat of 
the fire. In that second the Friar had caught 

197 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

sight of the face ; it was the dead tortured counten- 
ance of his beloved disciple, Fra Domenico. He 
gave a cry of anguish, and would have thrown 
himself into the crowd, but the tall stranger held 
him back. 

And now his maddened eyes noticed a man in 
scarlet and purple, mounted on a white mule, 
who rode round the edge of the pyre and urged 
on the crowd with ribald triumph. This man 
was old, and wore a triple crown ; and at his 
bridle were two younger men, like him in the 
face — horribly beautiful, wearing extravagant 
garments. 

" Alessandro Borgia," said the stranger in the 
Friar's ear, '* and his two sons, Francesco and 
Cesare." 

Fra Girolamo tried to speak, but his tongue 
refused to move. 

" Look again," urged the voice, low, insistent 
and mocking. 

The Friar gazed up through the smoke and 
flame, and in the horrid blaze saw another figure 
dangle at the rope's end, then drop ; again, in the 
instant's downward fall he saw the face — livid and 
despairing. 

This time his own. His — face and figure. 

" See how the people of Florence burn Giro- 
lamo Savonarola ! " cried the stranger. " These 
people who wept to hear you preach in the 
Duomo ! " 

Fra Girolamo fell back a step and raised a 
shuddering hand to shut out the awful fire. 

198 



THE BURNING OF THE VANITIES 

The other flung back his mantle, and the great 
glow of the fire caught the embroideries on the 
gay dress hitherto concealed beneath. 

" You dethroned the Medici," he said ; 
'' these," — he pointed to the crowd — " will dethrone 
you." 

Soft blackness rose up, choking the bright 
flames, blotting out the shouting people, the 
dim outline of the buildings swirling round the feet 
of Fra Girolamo and mounting to his eyes. He 
cast himself on his knees and seemed to sink 
forward on nothingness ; his senses broke and 
forsook him ; he flung out his hands and made 
an effort to hurl off the darkness as if it were a 
mantle tossed over his head ; he felt his knees 
strike stone, the blackness rent, tore, lifted and 
disappeared ; he found himself lying up the 
hospital steps ; before him the low wall, the 
cypress tree, the laurel branches ; beyond, the 
darkening pure sky. And beside him the tall 
stranger staring at him through the holes of his 
hideous mask. 

The Friar staggered to his feet. 

" I have had a vision," he said under his breath. 
** Methought you were my guide. Who are you ? " 

The other tore off the mask, snapping the 
orange ribbons that bound it to his head, and dis- 
closing a superb face framed in clusters of brown 
curls, flushed with crimson. 

" I am Piero ! " he cried. " I am the Medici ! 
And after the burning of Girolamo Savonarola I 
shall rule again in Florence ! " 

199 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" Then it was no vision," answered Fra Giro- 
lamo, " but a Devil's fantasy — ■ — " 

" A fantasy," said Piero ; " but you shall test 
its truth." 

The Friar leant against the wall of the hospital 
and closed his eyes to shut out the picture of the 
wicked face and red eyes he had last seen with 
that same smiling expression casting hate on 
him from beside the death-bed of Lorenzo the 
Magnificent. 

" Lord ! Lord ! " he cried strongly. " Save 
me from the snares and delusions of evil ! " 

Now he opened his eyes and saw about him 
his own cell in St. Mark, and he lay on his bed, 
and beside him sat his beloved disciple, Fra 
Domenico, and he shuddered as one waking from 
a terrible dream. 

" How got I here from the Piazza ? " he asked, 
sitting up. And they told him that a faintness 
had come over him as would often happen in the 
pulpit, and that so insensible he had been brought 
to the Convent. 

" Truly," said Fra Domenico, with love beaming 
in his eyes, " this was the day of your glory — for all 
the vanities in Florence were burnt to ashes — yes, 
even to nothingness was all that wantonness 
reduced." 

Girolamo Savonarola looked at Fra Domenico, 
then at his own body. 

" To ashes, to nothingness ! " he murmured. 
"Oh, God, make the spirit strong ! " 

The disciple asked tenderly — 
200 



THE BURNING OF THE VANITIES 

" Father, what troubled you ? " 

Fra Girolamo made the sign of the cross and 
replied with a sweet composure — 

"Nought— but in the crowd methought that 
I did see— Piero de' Medici." 



201 



A WOMAN OF THE PEOPLE 

Madame la Comtesse du Barry 

" Among all the noble and ignoble sufferers by the guillotine 
there is no record of cowardice on the part of any — save only in the 
case of Madame du Barry, a woman of the people who had been 
mistress of France during the most extravagant years of the reign 
of Louis XV." — History of France. 

On the third day of November, 1793, Madame la 
Comtesse du Barry, arrested for " supplymg the 
Emigrants with money," and for this offence 
sentenced to death, was brought to the prison of 
the Conciergerie. 

There were many prisoners that day, among 
them PhiHppe, one time Due d' Orleans, recently 
Philippe Egalite, the man who had voted for the 
death of his cousin, the King, and was now to die 
the same way himself. 

Madame du Barry and her companions were 
conducted through a large Gothic hall, dark and 
low, down a long stone corridor, also dark and 
low, and half open one side to grim vaults, through 
two squat doors and across a courtyard narrowed 
and cobbled, into another building, up gloomy 
straight stairs and into a narrow corridor. While 
the jailer was unlocking doors Madame du Barry 
looked round her ; she perceived that only one of 

202 



A WOMAN OF THE PEOPLE 

her companions remained — a woman as young and 
beautiful as herself, with black hair and dusky 
eyes and a face twisted with terror. 

" What is your name ? " whispered Madame 
du Barry. 

" Josephine Beauharnais," answered the dark 
beauty in a feeble voice. " And for God's sake 
tell me — are we to die — to die ? " 

" No — no," whispered the fair woman eagerly. 

Madame Beauharnais smiled foolishly. 

" A wise woman once said that I should be a 
queen and more," she replied brokenly, *' there- 
fore I cannot be going to die " 

'' No, no," repeated the Countess, shaking her 
blonde head. 

The jailer came and roughly separated them. 
Madame du Barry saw the pallid, dazed face of 
her companion and heard her shriek as she was 
thrust into a room and the key turned ; then she 
herself was pushed through an open door and 
locked in. 

She stumbled across the threshold and nearly 
fell, recovered herself and went straight to the 
window and looked out. 

The window was heavily and closely barred 
from top to bottom, and faced the other portion 
of the prison through which she had just come, 
which was only a few yards distant. A small 
portion of sky was visible and a small strip of 
cobbled courtyard ; nothing else. 

The sky was grey with the sullen snows of 
November, and the cobbles and the walls were 

203 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

splashed and stained with dark patches ; Madame 
du Barry knew what they were : a few days before 
the Girondists had been gathered in the chapel of 
the Concifergerie and then driven out into the court- 
yard to be massacred. 

She had heard a man say that the blood had 
been ankle-deep. 

A peculiar, terrible and sickening smell filled 
the prison ; she had noticed it as soon as she had 
stepped down into the dark entrance hall. It was 
very strong in this room where they had put her. 
She tried to forget what it was. 

" I must think," she said to herself ; " I must 
thmk." 

She had been saying that all day. Holding 
on to her senses and saying to herself that as soon 
as this horrible and bewildering tumult was over, 
as soon as she was alone and quiet, away from the 
abuse, the staring, the rough handhng, she would 
think — straighten things out in her mind, decide 
what must be done. 

And now she was alone she found she could 
not think ; she had acted on impulse, not re- 
flection, all her life ; besides, she was rather stupid. 

Her mind wandered off to trivial things : the 
details that had made her life still chiefly interested 
her ; she noticed the dull small room, the wooden 
bed with a rough coverlet, the broken chair. She 
pulled out the bed pillow and shuddered to see 
that it was soiled. Then she began to consider her 
own dress. 

She wore the gown she had been arrested in, a 
204 



A WOMAN OF THE PEOPLE 

plain yellow taffeta with muslin ruffles at the throat 
and elbows and a dark green pelerine with a cape. 

Her hat had gone ; on putting her hands up to 
her fair curls she found that her hair ribbon had 
gone too. Her dress was torn and muddy round 
the hem, and one of her light boots was broken. 

She put her hand to her bosom and drew out 
a string of pearls that she had, the moment before 
her arrest at her country chateau, snatched up 
mechanically and concealed in her dress. The soft 
lustre and colour of them gave her pleasure and 
comfort ; she handled them lovingly and laid them 
next her cheek. 

She remembered that she had worn them on 
the occasion when King Louis, at the review, had 
stood bare-headed at the door of her sedan, her 
lacquey before the eyes of France. 

And she was still as beautiful as she had been 
then — perhaps more beautiful ; therefore it could 
not be that they were going to murder her. Beauty 
like hers was a power. The men who had put her 
here could not have noticed her. 

She looked round, hoping for a mirror, but 
there was none. 

She put her hand to her face, felt her smooth 
skin, her glossy hair, her delicate neck, the curve 
of her lips. . . . 

*' If I were a plain woman I might be afraid," 
she murmured ; *' but they will not touch me." 

Rising impatiently, she moved about the room ; 
she began to be indignant that they had put her 
in such a place. She knocked on the door and 

205 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

called out, demanding a better apartment — food — 
clean sheets. 

It was absurd that she should be treated thus ; 
they had forgotten who she was, she told herself. 

There was no answer to her cries. She began 
to tremble, and presently returned to the window. 

She must think. 

She was condemned to death ; she had heard 
the man wearing the tricolor sash and cocked hat 
say so ; but at the time the words had meant 
little or nothing : they had only been one detail 
more in the tmnult of horror and terror by which 
she had been surrounded since her arrest. She 
knew that people were sentenced and left months 
in prison or set free the next morning ; besides, 
she was not an aristocrat, but a woman of the 
people. Despite her rapid rise and the brilliance 
of her shining, she was by birth no better than the 
draggled women who had shouted at her as she 
was dragged before the tribunal. 

Yes, she was one with these people ; the great 
aristocrats had always scorned her. M. de Choiseul 
had lost his place for a disdainful word of her ; 
they had all recognised that she was, however 
gilded by the homage of Louis, only a common 
creature. 

She tried to recall the years of her glory when 
she had ruled France, and to search in her mind 
for any cause of offence given to the People who 
were now the masters. She thought that her 
conscience was clear : she had never meddled with 
politics ; she had been kind to those dependent 

206 



A WOMAN OF THE PEOPLE 

on her ; she had done her best to amuse a King 
who was " unamusable." True, she had used the 
pubHc treasury as her own, but she had robbed no 
one, for the money would only have gone to some 
other woman. No, she could not see that she had 
done more than fill her part. Certamly, when she 
had ruled France it had not floated in blood as 
it was floating now ; she had not pulled down 
God and profaned His Churches ; she had not 
imprisoned the innocent and massacred the 
helpless. 

With the thought that the People had no 
crime to charge her with she consoled herself, 
and she was not afraid of the actual charge on 
which she was condemned, for it was vague and 
feeble. 

The truth they did not know. Having fled 
to London on the first outbreak of the revolution, 
she had returned to France — not, as her accusers 
beheved, to fetch her jewels with which to succour 
the emigrants in England, but to put her wealth 
and her services at the disposal of those who were 
engaged in a plot to rescue the Queen. 

Marie Antoinette had always looked over the 
head of Madame du Barry ; while the old King 
lived she had afforded her, under compulsion, a 
frozen tolerance ; when she became Queen the 
favourite had been banished to a convent, utterly 
ignored and forgotten. 

Yet on an impulse of loyalty Madame du Barry 
had come impetuously from London to endeavour 
to rescue the Queen whom she had always admired, 

207 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

wliom she admired rather more perhaps for her 
constant lofty attitude of contempt towards her- 
self ; her placid, rather foolish mind had never 
resented the disdain of an Emperor's daughter. 
She was very sorry that her attempt to serve the 
Queen had been frustrated ; she resolved, when 
she was free, to make another endeavour, though 
she had already given nearly all the spoils of her 
years of plunder to help the refugees in England. . . . 

The dusk began to fall ; the room was shiver- 
ingly cold. No one came to her. She paced up 
and down the room to keep herself warm and beat 
her hands on her breast. 

Suppose that, after all, they did mean to drag 
her out to the guillotine ? 

Many, many had gone already ; many, many 
were yet to go — women as beautiful as herself, as 
innocent of offence towards the People. 

At this thought her spirit shrieked aloud ; 
she fell across the chair by the window and gazed 
frantically at the strip of darkening sky. 

The smell of blood rose intolerably and clung 
to her nostrils ; it reminded her that all her poor 
reasonings were of no avail, that this was an age of 
anarchy when none of the old arguments held 
good. 

And she was in the power of creatures without 
pity, without justice, who stopped for nothing 
in their swift slaying. 

But she would not accept this view ; her mind 
rejected it. She could not and would not believe 
that she was meant for death. 

208 



A WOMAN OF THE PEOPLE 

Suddenly the jailer entered ; she had meant 
to assail him with questions, arguments, reproaches, 
but when she saw him, though he had no particular 
appearance of brutality, she could not summon the 
courage to say one word. 

He put a plate of bread and meat and a glass 
of water on the table. He did not even look at 
her ; his air was one of absolute indifference. 

She noticed his black and broken nails, his 
dirty neck and greasy clothes ; she felt sick, and 
closed her eyes. 

The sound of the closing door penetrated her 
nausea. She tried to ask for a light, but he had 
gone and the key was turned in the lock ; she rose 
then and pushed away the fat, almost raw meatj 
the sight of which made her quiver with disgust. 
She tried to eat a little of the bread, but it was 
coarse and dry and stuck in her throat. 

Some of the water she drank and the rest she 
used to bathe her hands and brow, drying them 
afterwards on her petticoat. 

The light faded quickly in this confined chamber, 
built in as it was ; and though the chimes of the 
Conciergerie clock told her that it was no more 
than four, it was soon completely dark. 

She faced the fact that they meant to leave 
her without a light ; this did not much trouble 
her. She felt a dullness creeping over her spirits ; 
she was more conscious of the cold than anything 
else. Chilled in every limb, she lay down on the 
distasteful bed and dragged the thin blankets 
over her. All her terrified and bewildered thoughts 

209 p 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

were soothed by the exquisite sense of physical 
relief that ran through her fatigued body. She 
sighed and dismissed everything till to-morrow ; 
the tension of nerves and brain relaxed. She 
spread her thick hair between her face and the pillow 
and slept. 

She dreamt of a little episode that had taken 
place many years ago at Versailles. Marie Antoi- 
nette, the childish young Dauphine, had, in her 
tremendous pride of royal birth and purity, re- 
fused to speak to the Comtesse du Barry, who 
was then the most powerful person in France. 

The Austrian Ambassador had besought this 
concession of her in vain ; but at last, on the com- 
mands of her mother, the Empress Marie Therese, 
she had given way, and had reluctantly promised 
to speak to the favourite in full com't. 

It was this scene that Madame du Barry saw 
now in her sleep. 

She thought that she was standing again in 
the gorgeous gallery at Versailles that looked out 
on to the terrace ; she thought that she was again 
powdered, perfumed, and clad in rose-coloured 
velvet and wearing on her breast diamonds that 
would have bought bread for all the starving 
people in France. 

And across the shining floor came the young 
Austrian, her immature figm-e glittering in jewelled 
brocade and tense with the effort she was making. 

" Madame," she said in a stifled voice, " there 
are a number of people at Versailles to-day " 

Then her voice broke, her breast heaved, she 
210 



A WOMAN OF THE PEOPLE 

flushed crimson and hurried away, bursting into 
tears. 

Madame du Barry thought that she was follow- 
ing her, saying — 

" Do not be distressed, Madame. I am sorry 
they have made you speak to me. I shall not do 
you any harm." 

But the Princess would not turn, but hastened 
along the gleaming floor. 

She woke with a start and a horrid leap of her 
heart ; the room was quite dark but cut by the 
yellow hght coming through the open door ; she 
could see the shape of a man looking in. 

'' Six o'clock to-morrow, citizeness," he said 
in a tired voice, and closed the door. 

She tried to concentrate her mind on what 
he had said. What was it that was to happen 
at six o'clock to-morrow ? 

She was quite ignorant of the rules and customs 
of the prison. Perhaps it meant that she was to 
be set free in the morning, or taken to a better 
apartment, or put on her trial — or perhaps it was 
merely the hour at which he would rouse her and 
bring her food. 

Fatigue overwhelmed her again ; she fell into 
a heavy sleep, this time dreamless. 

When she woke the darkness was faintly filled 
with the glimmer of dawn ; she rose, stiff and giddy, 
and put up her hair with such pins as she could 
find scattered on the bed. 

Mechanically she pulled her coat and gown, 
her fichu and rufHes into place. The exquisite 

211 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

habits of years of luxurious living asserted them- 
selves without any prompting of the brain, as her 
beauty, that neither dissipation nor indolence 
could mar, asserted itself even now, when she was 
for perhaps the first time in her life unconscious 
of it. 

She felt very feeble, and her head was aching 
slightly with a dull pain in the temples. She would 
not go to the window because of the remembrance 
of the stained courtyard. 

The room was very cold, yet close and foul ; 
she wondered who had been confined here before, 
and whether they had been released or 

She heard doors opening and shutting down the 
corridor, footsteps and the jangle of keys. 

Her own door opened and the jailer appeared, 
holding a lantern. 

He made a gesture for her to pass out ; she 
rose stiffly. 

" What is this ? Where am I to go ? Am I 
to have no food ? I could not eat what you brought 
last night." 

The man seized her arm and pushed her 
out into the corridor, then went on to the next 
door. 

Madame du Barry found several people waiting 
who had evidently been roused as she had been ; 
they all glanced at her curiously, and some recog- 
nised her and all noticed her beauty. 

On her part she looked for the gipsy-like lady 
whom she had spoken with last night, but she was 
not there. From the others Madame du Barry 

212 



A WOMAN OF THE PEOPLE 

shrank ; she thought that their eyes were cold and 
disdainful. 

When some seven were gathered and the last 
door had been relocked, the jailer conducted them 
downstairs and across the courtyard, the way 
Madame du Barry had been brought last night. 

She made a resolve, and kept it, of not looking 
down when she crossed those foul cobbles, but 
forced herself to look up at the strip of sky sadly 
coloured with the winter dawn, that — melancholy 
and remote as it was — yet seemed kinder and 
more human than either buildings or people. 
Then the sombre walls closed round them again. 
A couple of Republican Guards took charge of 
the prisoners and conducted them to the large, 
dark Gothic entrance hall — " la salle des pas 
perdu." 

This was lit by two lanterns and already con- 
tained several people besides the soldiers on 
duty. 

There was a great silence. Madame du Barry 
wished to speak, to ask what was going to happen, 
but could not ; she leant against one of the pillars 
and looked round with frightened eyes. 

Every one was very quiet ; a few whispered 
together, but in the most hushed of tones. The 
soldiers paced about heavily ; one was eating 
nuts. 

Most of the people were poorly dressed and 
white-faced, as if they had been long in prison, 
but some were fashionable and neat, and must 
have been just arrested. 

213 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

One of these, a young man wearing a handsome 
travelling dress and his hair elaborately cmrled, 
approached Madame du Barry. 

His face was vaguely familiar to her ; she 
thought that she must have seen him at Versailles. 

" Why did you return to France, Madame ? " 
he asked. 

The sound of a refined man's voice was beyond 
words grateful to her ears ; the numb sensation 
left her brain. She raised her blue eyes and gave 
him (unconsciously) the sideway glance she had 
used with such effect at the court of France. 

" They think it was for my jewels," she 
whispered ; " but I was in a plot to save the 
Queen." 

He looked at her very kindly, and she was 
pleased and flattered to a great degree, for she had 
believed that the aristocracy still despised her, 
and this man was obviously an aristocrat. 

" What are they keeping us here for ? " she 
asked. " What is going to happen ? " 

He made no immediate answer, and, looking 
intently at him, she perceived that his face was 
slightly distorted — or was it that her vision was 
distracted and gave this abnormal appearance 
to others ? 

A soldier passed them, insolently near ; when 
he had gone the young man answered — 

" They must have told you ? You were tried 
yesterday ? " 

She faintly shook her fair head. 

" Oh no, you could not call it a trial ; they 
214 



A WOMAN OF THE PEOPLE 

dragged me before some tribunal. A servant 
denounced me, Monsieur." 

" Do you not know, Madame, what this 
means ? " 

A spasm of agony contracted her heart. 

*' No — no " she stammered. 

He very gently laid his hand on her wrist. 
" We are all condemned to the guillotine," he 
said. " We are waiting for that now — the guil- 
lotine." 

Incomprehension and confusion showed in the 
blue eyes of Madame du Barry ; her mouth fell 
open. 

" They are going to kill — me ? " she asked. 

His fingers tightened on her wrist ; he answered, 
and his voice was so low and hoarse that it seemed 
a whistle in his throat. 

'' They are watching us. Do not let them see 
that you care." 

*' Oh, I shall be very quiet," she answered. 

He let go of her hand, and it fell like a dead 
thing to her side. 

She was, as she had promised, very quiet, 
but it was only because she did not, could not, 
realise what this man had said. Yesterday she 
had clung to the idea that once she was alone 
in prison she would think clearly, but she had not, 
and now the nightmare was closing round her 
again. 

Her weight slipped against the pillar ; she felt 
both sick and giddy. Some one moved a chair 
towards her and gently pushed her into it ; she 

215 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

looked up to see a woman holding some knitting 
in her left hand. 

" The bad air makes you faint," said this lady 
kindly and serenely. 

" Was I faint ? " asked Madame du Barry. 

The lady and the young man exchanged glances 
over her bent blonde head. 

" You must not be afraid," he said. " It is 
only death." 

'' And it is very quickly over," added the 
lady. 

" Who are you ? " asked Madame du Barry 
stupidly. 

The lady mentioned a great name, the name of 
a friend of the Queen, the name of a woman who 
had quietly ignored the favourite at Versailles. 

" Yes, I remember you," muttered the Countess 
and shrank away. 

The other woman touched her shoulder. 
*' Madame has behaved like a person of quality," 
she said gently. " Madame will die as such " 

At this a little blood crept into the poor 
prisoner's face ; she caught at the kind hand on 
her shoulder. 

" Yes, yes," she answered pitifully, " I will 
try to behave well." 

*' Are you afraid ? " asked the young man. 

She looked up at him and thought that his face 
was beyond doubt horribly distorted now, like a 
wet clay mask pulled awry by clumsy fingers. 

'' I am very much afraid — I can't believe it " 

Her voice trailed off ; she turned her eyes to the 

216 



A WOMAN OF THE PEOPLE 

woman the other side of her. In that white, calm 
face was that same dragged look of distortion. 
Madame du Barry did not know that her own 
features were now almost unrecognisable through 
the contraction of terror and anticipation of 
death. 

" Why do you not do something ? " she 
glanced round the assembled prisoners. " All 
these people cannot be going to — die ? " 

The lady put her knitting in the pocket of her 
black silk apron ; she had seen the guards un- 
barring the doors. 

" Whatever we are ox have been," she answered, 
" none of us, so far, have failed in this moment." 

Madame du Barry sprang up. 

" But I cannot— do — it " she stammered. 

" I — cannot — I am not an aristocrat — I — I — have 
nothing to die for — I am only a woman of the 
people " 

There was no response in the faces of her two 
companions ; they were watching the opening of 
the doors at the top of the few shallow steps. 
Madame du Barry watched too ; her senses seemed 
suspended or dulled ; her mouth hung open in 
a childish circle and her eyes showed the white 
round the pupils. 

The doors were flung wide and fastened back ; 
four soldiers entered and took up their places 
inside the entrance. A shaft of chill white light 
fell across the lantern-lit gloom, and a rush of 
bitter air dispersed the close odours of the hall. 

Madame du Barry found the name — " salle des 
217 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

pas perdu " running in her head ; for the first 
time in her Hfe she noticed the meaning. ... Of 
course, " The hall of lost footsteps." Of course 
that was why it was given to entrance places : 
people came and went, but no one stayed — lost 
footsteps . . . lost footsteps. . . . 

She could see a cart outside, a humble, dirty 
cart with straw in the bottom. A jailer began to 
call out numbers ; the prisoners moved towards 
the door. She found herself being drawn along 
by the young man who had spoken to her, found 
herself mounting the few steps and outside in the 
raw, cold morning. 

She had an appalling sensation of being hurried 
along too fast for comprehension. If they would 
only give her time to think ! She could not realise 
anything. 

There were very few people before the prison ; 
the one or two there took no notice. A man 
delivering bread looked over his shoulder, then 
away again, indifferently. 

Some passers-by on the quay stopped to watch, 
i . . Madame du Barry wondered what was the 
matter with these people, with the river, with 
the houses beyond, with the sky — all seemed 
unreal, distorted. This was not the world that 
she knew . . . she was among grotesque strangers. 
Following the others meekly, she ascended the 
cart ; there were about twelve people in it, and 
they had to stand. When the horse started the 
jerk almost threw her on her knees ; the man 
next her helped her up. 

213 



A WOMAN OF THE PEOPLE 

" Where are we going ? " she asked. " Where 
are we going ? " 

" To Heaven, I hope," was the flippant answer. 

A man the other side of her spoke. " One 
cannot be sure of one's company even in the 
tumbrils," he remarked, glancing at her. ^ " But 
poor Duquesne had to go with PhiHppe Egalite, 
which was worse," he added. 

Madame du Barry looked wildly round for the 
young aristocrat who had befriended her ; he was 
standing towards the front of the cart, looking 
with a melancholy air at the river. She could not 
attract his attention. The lady with the knitting 
had not come. 

They soon left the quay for the more crowded 
thoroughfares. People began to line the roads, 
to fill the windows. There was an unusual crowd 
to-day to watch the passing of the King's favourite. 

The wretched object of this attention began to 
be aware of it, began to understand that the abuse 
and execrations that were flung after them were 
chiefly directed against her, began to grasp the 
meaning of the finger-pointing, the shouting. 

She was going to her death, and these people 
were hounding her to it with dehght and ferocity. 

A convulsion shook her and a light foam frothed 
on her lips while her eyes turned in her head ; 
she gave a shriek so sharp and ghastly that the 
men beside her covered their ears ; she would 
have fallen had not the wooden rails of the cart 
held her up. 

This new spectacle of abandoned terror brought 
219 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

the mob rushing after the cart with fresh im- 
precations of hate and contempt towards the woman 
who had spent the revenues of France in wanton 
luxury while such as themselves sweated and 
starved. 

But she was ignorant of her offence towards 
them ; and now the conviction of the truth was 
borne blazingly into her brain, filled only with 
one desire — to save her life. 

She stretched her hands out over the back of 
the cart. 

" I am no aristocrat ! " she cried. " I am a 
woman of the people ! Save me ; do not let them 
take me ! I do not want to die ! " 

Such taunts of vile and horrible abuse answered 
her that she drew back with her fingers to her lips. 

" No, no ! " she shrieked. " I never wronged 
any one of you ! " 

The surging crowd now almost blocked the 
progress of the cart ; the soldiers who were con- 
ducting it had to make a way with their bayonets. 

Stones and garbage were hurled at her ; dirt 
splashed on her dress ; the jerking of the cart 
shook her hair down ; she continually lost her 
balance and fell against the wooden side. 

" Madame, for God's sake " said the man 

next her. " You demean us all." 

She put her hands over her face ; these others 
might well be brave, she thought ; they were 
dying for all they believed in, for the sake of what 
they were, but she had nothing to die for. All 
she had, all she had ever had, was her beauty, 

220 



A WOMAN OF THE PEOPLE 

and death would take that from her — and what 
was left ? 

Death presented itself to her as an intolerable 
blackness ; she could not, she would not face it. 
She would resist. They could not be such fiends 
as to drag her to her death. 

She clenched her hands. She heard the words 
they were throwing at her ; a sense of rage nerved 
her against them. She hated them, especially 
the women. She lifted her head, and her blue 
eyes had a hot brilHance like madness. 

" I am not a wicked woman ! " she cried out 
fiercely, looking over the sea of haggard, angry 
faces. " What I did any of you women here 
would have done had it been offered to you as it 
was offered to me ! " 

Such of the women who could hear these words 
replied by a rush of fury that nearly upset the 
cart, and tried to pull the speaker down among 
them ; the soldiers drove them back, and one 
man struck Madame du Barry with the flat of 
his sword and violently bade her be silent. 

She crouched down, hiding her eyes and her 
ears. A Httle cold rain began to fall ; she felt it 
on her head and shivered. 

The cart stopped. She dropped her stiff 
fingers and looked up ; she was face to face with 
the final horror. 

A platform surrounded with soldiers in the 
midst of an open place crowded with people ; 
at one side a palace and trees — the great square 
once named after her lover, Louis XV. 

221 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

From the centre of the platform rose the 
hideous machine itself, the guillotine, with two 
tall upright posts dyed red, the plank, the basket, 
the cloth, a man in a dark coat holding a cord, 
all outhned against a grey tumultuous sky and 
the leafless, dry trees of November, 

The prisoners began to descend from the cart, 
began to ascend the steps to the guillotine amid 
the murmurs and yells of the haggard feverish 
crowd. 

Madame du Barry stood at the foot of the 
scaffold. One by one her companions passed 
her. The young man in the handsome great 
coat murmured " courage " as he stepped up and 
looked at her with pitying eyes. 

Her heart was beating very fast ; she did not 
know what she was thinking or doing, only that 
all her worst anticipations had not equalled this 
horror 

There were only three left besides herself. The 
man in charge of the cart seized hold of her long 
locks and quickly and roughly cut them off. 

" Your turn, my little piece of royalty," he 
said. 

She looked at him blankly ; he snatched her 
small, feeble hands and tied them behind her 
before she had guessed his intention. 

" Oh ! " she cried. " Oh ! " 

She was quite bewildered. The world seemed 
to have stopped. She saw her blonde curls lying 
at her feet and moved her head stiffly to and fro 
to see if the ringlets were not still there. 

222 



A WOMAN OF THE PEOPLE 

They pushed her forward and told her to mount. 

" Up there ? " she asked vacantly, and stared 
at the scaffold. 

" Yes, up there," was the answer. She hesi- 
tated, looked about her as if she did not under- 
stand. The man, becoming impatient, pushed her 
again, roughly, and she, impeded by her bound 
arms, could not save herself, but fell in the slime 
and mud at the foot of the steps. 

They dragged her to her feet and up the steps, 
one either side of her, hurting her arms. 

The roar of the crowd that greeted her was 
prolonged and horrible ; she looked round at them ; 
no one who had seen her, even yesterday, would 
have recognised her then. 

Samson approached and caught hold of her 
fichu. 

" May I not keep that ? " she asked. He did 
not even trouble to refuse, but snatched away the 
muslin, leaving her throat and bosom bare. She 
struggled to release her arms, turned and saw the 
plank, the posts, the basket full of heads. Shriek 
after shriek left her lips. Such desperate strength 
possessed her that she almost broke from the two 
men holding her. 

" Have mercy on me — I never hurt anything — 
I was not properly tried — I am not an aristocrat ! 
Why did he denounce me ? I was always good 
to him ! Oh, my God, my God, save me from 
this ! " 

For an awful moment the two men and the 
woman struggled together, she being drawn nearer, 

223 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

nearer the plank. The pearls, last remnant of 
her guilty greatness, fell from her poor torn bodice 
on to the dirty boards. Samson stooped to pick 
them up, and the other man, using brutal force, 
hurled Madame du Barry to her knees. 

" Do not hurt me ! " she screamed. They 
seized her again and pitched her forward on to the 
plank. She strove unavaihngly. 

Samson pulled the cord. She saw and -smelt 
blood and slime ; she felt herself being swung 
forward. She shrieked once — twice — and the knife 
descended, sending her common blood gushing 
over the other noble blood that stained the oak 
and iron. 



224 



THE ARISTOCRAT 

" Oh, it would be better to be a poor fisherman than to meddle 
with the governing of men." — Danton in Prison. 

On a morning in May, 1794, misty bright with the 
pure soft glow of a spring sun, a man sat under a 
hedge on the high-road to Paris, near Clamars, a 
village close to Bourg-la-Reine. 

He was in ragged clothes, unshaven, gaunt and 
pallid ; his hair hung damp and dusty round his 
forehead and neck ; his face, which was of aquiline 
type, had a closed look of physical suffering silently 
endured ; his feet were blistered and bleeding, his 
dirty stockings had fallen down to his ankles 
though he had endeavoured to fasten them with 
wisps of grass ; he had neither shoes nor waist- 
coat ; he was thin with the dry horrible thinness 
of starvation. His eyes, large and deep-set, were 
flecked with red, and his cracked lips stiffly parted 
over the white glisten of his teeth. 

This man was Marie Jean Nicolas Caritat, 
Marquis de Condorcet, peer of France, famous 
mathematician, philosopher, man of letters, poli- 
tician and Girondist, the friend of Liberty, the 
dreamer of the dream of a respectable Republic 
and the People ruling gloriously over France, the 

225 Q 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

denouncer of Robespierre and all the excesses of 
the Eevolution, a man famous for his learned 
book " Esquise sur 1' Esprit Humaine " and such- 
like, and for the Roman-like tend of his speeches 
in the Senate. 

Neither birth nor learning nor high-minded 
endeavour, nor patriotism, nor flinging aside 
ancient prejudices of birth and joining hands 
with the people in what he had hoped was an 
enlightened age, had saved him from this : the 
ignominy of flight, of hiding, the ignominy of sheer 
starvation. On the fall of his party and the arrest 
of his colleagues he had fled, and for two months 
had been sheltered by friends ; but he was too 
great a man to be forgotten ; as the principles 
he had advocated fell most hopelessly to ruin, as 
the section he had been associated with became 
more and more an object of public contempt and 
hatred, as the bloody tyranny of the Robespierre 
tribunals grew fiercer and more unrestrained, so 
did the net begin to close more tightly round the 
Marquis de Condorcet. 

His presence in his friend's house began to 
endanger that friend ; he was entreated to stay, 
at whatever cost, but nevertheless rose early one 
morning and left the house and left Paris ; he had 
come to the humihation of flight and concealment, 
not yet to the humihation of dragging others with 
him in his piteous downfall. 

For two weeks he had lurked round Paris, 
hiding in thickets and quarries, hving on the food 
he had v/ith him in his pocket and a few crusts 

226 



THE ARISTOCRAT 

begged from a farmhouse and a few scraps pm:- 
chased by a day's labour in turning the ground. 

These two weeks had served to bring him to 
the last stage of extremity ; the aristocrat, the 
philosopher, had only two desires — a little food 
and a little sleep. 

Goaded by this intolerable need of food he had 
left the disused quarry where he had lain hidden 
for the last two days and stumbled on to the high- 
road where he sat now, blinking at the sun. 

Yesterday he had found an unsuspected treasure, 
in the shape of two silver pieces, in the inner pocket 
of his coat, and he resolved to reach the nearest 
inn and lay this out in food. 

What he should do afterwards he was too sick 
to think ; everything had narrowed to that desire 
for food and rest — the rest that could only come 
of hunger satisfied ; for at present the pangs of 
starvation would not let him sleep or, for one 
instant, forget his outraged body. 

Yet prudence still whispered in his ear that 
he meditated a foolish thing ; they were looking 
for him — even the half-witted peasants on the 
farm where he had worked had suspected him — 
and at an inn where some one of better intelli- 
gence might any moment enter, surely he wcs not 
safe. 

Then he considered his appearance ; certainly 
the Marquis de Condorcet was well disguised now ; 
his clothes had been at best poor, for he had passed 
as a servant in his friend's house, and now there 
was not one sign or mark of anything save the 

227 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

most abject poverty and want about his person ; 
he thought he could defy recognition. 

He watched the sun mounting above the haw- 
thorn trees that were clouded with white blossoms, 
and there seemed to be two orbs of gold fire chang- 
ing and mingling and sHpping giddily about the 
heavens. 

He staggered to his feet and walked stiffly and 
slowly down the long dusty road, each step an 
agony, for his feet were chafed raw in his rough 
hard boots. 

He passed a poor cottage standing in an un- 
tidy garden ; it was the beginning of the village 
of Clamars. 

The winding street led to the inn ; though it 
was still so early the place was open ; a boy was 
whistling while he rubbed down a horse, his plump 
aspect had something grotesque in it to the famished 
man. 

A woman came out of the inn and threw a pail 
of dirty water across the street ; the Marquis 
stupidly noticed the long dark trails of wet across 
the dust that were trickling slowly to his feet. 
The boy looked up and saw him as he stood hesi- 
tating. 

" Good morning, citizen." 

'' Good morning, citizen," answered the Marquis 
in a voice feeble from weakness and long silence. 
" Can I get some food here ? " 

" If you can pay for it, citizen." 

" Yes, I can pay." 

The boy straightened himself and looked at 
228 



THE ARISTOCRAT 

the wild and miserable figure advancing towards 
him. 

" Who are you, citizen ? " he asked, and the 
Marquis saw suspicion creep into his common 
dull face. 

" I am a servant looking for a place ; my last 
was in Paris — I have walked a long way — I mean 
to get to Bourg-la-Eeine to-night." 

" Well, it is not far," answered the peasant 
with an instant insolence of the poor towards the 
ragged. 

" I must have breakfast first," said the Marquis, 
putting a great restraint on himself to speak gently 
and humbly ; it was natural to him to be brief 
and cold with his inferiors. 

The youth jerked his head towards the open door. 

The Marquis entered the low dark passage and 
stepped into the common parlour in the front, 
which was roughly furnished but filled with beauty 
by the chestnut tree that pressed its load of young 
clear green leaves against the panes of the small 
low window. 

The Marquis sank on to a chair by this window, 
with his back to the light and rested his elbows 
on the stained table in front of him. 

The woman whom he had seen with the pail 
entered, wiping her hands on her rough blue apron ; 
she did not appear to notice his desperate appear- 
ance ; the light was not good and probably she 
was used enough to wild and haggard figures 
stopping here for a moment's respite on some 
bitter journey. 

229 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

He asked her briefly for food ; she nodded and 
looked at him, not unkindly. Few indeed could 
have looked at him unmoved, so obviously had 
everything left him save mere fainting humanity 
that cried for succour. 

'' You are hungry ? " she said. 

He answered her with an effort ; repeated his 
story of a servant out of place. 

" What became of your master ? " she asked. 

" Dead," he repHed, hardly knowing what he 
said. " The guillotine " 

" Ah, the guillotine — he was, then, an aristo- 
crat ? " She put bread, cheese and a bottle of 
wine on the table, having taken them from a 
cupboard in the wall. 

" Do aristocrats only go to the guillotine ? " 
he replied, while his hand went out to the bread. 
" No, there are no longer any aristocrats, and now 
we execute the good repubUcans, citizeness." 

" Yes," she answered ; " but you spoke as if 
you had lived with aristocrats, citizen." 

The Marquis shuddered : so she had noticed 
it, this stupid woman ; his speech stamped him, 
he could not disguise that. 

" I was in a good place," he said. 

She left him, and he began eating and drinking, 
not thinking for the moment of anything but that, 
the gratification of his necessity. 

He ate all the bread and cheese she had brought 
him before he dare touch the wine ; when he did 
drink it, poor and thin as it was, it restored his 
blood to nearer its normal beat and heat ; his 

230 



THE ARISTOCRAT 

brain began to work more clearly and sanely, his 
strong intelligence reasserted its sway ; he began 
to form plans, to make resolves. 

The woman came in and brought him meat 
and more bread ; he asked her if he could rest 
there till noon, and she answered that he could 
stay in the room till then, he would not trouble 
her, and she was not Hkely to have more customers 
before the evening. 

Again he was alone ; the peace of the dark 
parlour, the delicious green of the softly-waving 
leaves outside, the silence and a certain homely 
perfume from the herbs hanging in bunches from 
the dark raftered ceiling affected him like a spell. 

It was probably foolish to remain here ; it 
would probably be wise to take advantage of his 
luck and slip away while the inn was quiet, but he 
could not. The pain of hunger ceased, his great 
fatigue asserted itself ; if they had been galloping 
red-hot from Paris after him with certain news 
that he was at this very spot, he must still have 
done as he did ; drop on to the worn chintz settle 
and sleep. 

The gratification of his utter bodily weariness 
was more exquisite than the gratification of his 
hunger had been ; the humble couch was like down 
pillows after stones and hedges, and the pursued 
and hunted man abandoned himself without re- 
sistance to the helplessness of sleep. 

When he awoke it was about three hours later ; 
he was racked with pain and still exhausted, but 
he made a violent effort to rouse himself ; his 

231 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

mind was quite clear ; he knew what he was 
risking and he would risk it no longer ; he forced 
back the desire to again fall into a stupor of 
sleep and sat up on the couch. 

There was a great noise outside ; some one 
was arriving with loud and angry commands, 
jingle of harness, clatter of horses' hoofs. 

The Marquis guessed that this noise was what 
had roused him ; he rose softly, went to the 
window and peeped through the screen of leaves. 

A well-dressed man was dismounting and 
another was ordering about the stable-boy with an 
air of great importance. 

The Marquis dropped into his former seat with 
his back to the light — had he stayed too long ? 
— was there some possible way of immediate 
escape ? 

Only by the common passage through which 
he had come ; and it was too late for that, for he 
could hear the two men already there calhng for 
wine. 

Who were they ? Was he caught ? Could he 
play his part through and cheat the accursed of 
their prey ? 

He asked himself these questions in swift 
succession, and every nerve in his being braced 
itself to avoid the final misery of facing the humilia- 
tion of falling into his enemies' hands after under- 
going every other humihation of flight, conceal- 
ment and degradation. He could not have put 
into words the hatred he felt towards the tyrants 
with whom for a while he had in his bhndness 

232 



THE ARISTOCRAT 

joined, forsaking his own order, believing in his 
folly that he was leaguing with the right, that he 
was to be one of the prophets of a new era of 
liberty and Hght and hope. 

Believing, too, that he and they could forget 
his gentle blood, that they could forgive it and he 
ignore it ; but it had been the strongest of all 
strong things ; now, when everything else was 
stripped away it remained : his birth, his blood, 
his traditions, and the great hate between him 
and the plebeian that had been for a while cloaked 
and disguised, now sprang actively to life. 

He could not repent too bitterly of his mistaken 
ideals of patriotism and the general good, his un- 
fortunate ambitions of governing his country, of 
doing some service to his kind that had led him 
to this pass of despair, that had made him another 
figure of tragedy to blend in the bloody carnival 
being daily enacted ; and in this moment of anguish 
he would rather have died as others of his class 
had died — at once hating the people and by them 
hated, tyrants perhaps and men who had done 
nothing with their lives, but to be envied by men 
like Marie Jean Caritat who had forsaken his order 
only to come to this. 

The two new-comers entered the room ; which 
was now so Hght by reason of the level rays of the 
sun piercing the chestnut leaves that but little 
part of it was in shadow, and the Marquis, even 
with his back to the light was clear enough in every 
detail, as he well felt. 

He sat upright, with nothing of the pose of the 
233 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

character he was assuming in his bearing, and 
looked at the new-comers. 

He could see at once that they were of a type 
particularly hateful to him : the small official of 
no birth or culture whom chance had thrown to 
the surface in the turmoil of the revolution, and 
whom chance might, and probably would, throw 
to-morrow to the guillotine ; but while their 
power lasted they used it brutally, these men, 
and enjoyed to deal fiercely with those of the old 
regime. 

One wore the tricolour sash round his rusty 
black cloth coat, and the tricolour in his cockade ; 
he was perhaps president of the Committee of 
Public Safety in Bourg-la-Reine, or perhaps the 
Public Prosecutor ; it was obvious that he con- 
sidered himself a great man ; in his native town 
he was probably bowed down to, being no doubt 
for the moment a potent instrument for death 
and terror. His companion seemed a kind of 
secretary or attendant, subservient and truckhng 
to the more important man ; both of them had 
the loose ungraceful air of low breed in a position 
of authority. 

On their entry both glanced instantly at the 
Marquis ; it was no more than a glance from 
either of them ; he drew a broken breath of relief 
to think that they passed his appearance. 

The woman came hurrying in to wait on them ; 
they ordered wine lavishly and began talking 
noisily together about local politics. 

The Marquis foresaw no difiiculty in making 
234 



THE ARISTOCRAT 

an easy escape, but he waited, considering what 
to do. 

He dare not go back to Paris, he dare not go 
on to Bourg-la-Reine ; there was nothing but to 
creep back to the disused quarries and hide there 
till perhaps the Robespierre tyranny fell ; he had 
hoped at first to find means to fly to England, but 
without money that had proved impossible. 

Still, the idea returned to him now ; it would 
be better to risk all on that than to return to the 
quarries ; he resolved to push on to the coast ; 
there were several people on the way who would 
help him could he but reach them ; the food and 
rest had put new daring into him ; under the 
very eyes of two of the men who would deliver 
him to instant and horrible death if they knew him 
did he plan calmly his future means of escape. 

It occurred to him that this might be the last 
chance of food for some while and he was again 
hungry. 

When the woman re-entered, attending to the 
wants of the citizens of Bourg-la-Reine, he beckoned 
to her and asked her in a low tone to prepare him 
an omelette before he set out on his journey. 

Then, fearful that she might deny him, under 
the impression that he could not pay, he took 
one of his silver pieces out of his pocket and laid 
it on the table. 

The woman looked at the money and at him. 

" You can stay the night, if you wish, for 
that," she said. 

*' No, citizeness," he answered. '' I must get on." 
235 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" Lodging is dearer in Bourg-la-Reine," she 
said. " And what is your need to hasten 1 " 

'' I was told of a possible place," he said. 

" Likely they will take you ! " she glanced at 
him pityingly. 

Looking beyond her he saw that the two men 
had stopped their conversation and were watching 
him. The woman moved away and one of the 
men (he of the tricolour) stopped her. 

" The citizen over there is not very prosperous 
looking," he remarked. " Who is he ? " 

" A servant looking for a place, citizen." 

" He speaks," was the answer, " like an aris- 
tocrat." 

" He has lived with them, I beHeve, citizen." 

" Has he ? " The important man glanced at 
his companion, who struck his knee softly and 
cried — 

'' ' Suspect ! ' "—on the face of it ! What did 
he order — an omelette ? " 

The other stroked his rough chin and spoke to 
the woman. 

" Ask the citizen-servant how many eggs go 
to his omelette ! " 

She stared. '' I know, citizen." 

" Certainly, citizeness, but does he ? Ask him." 

Condorcet had not heard this conversation 
which was spoken very low and in the patois of 
the neighbourhood ; he feared, however, that 
it might be about him, and was therefore relieved 
to hear the simple question the woman put to him 
when she returned to his little table by the window. 

236 



THE ARISTOCRAT 

" How many eggs will you have to your ome- 
lette, citizen ? " 

" A dozen," answered the Marquis. 

He saw instantly by the expression of the 
woman's face that he had said the wrong thing. 

" A dozen eggs ! " she echoed. 

" Is not that the right number, citizeness ? " 

She retreated from him and went to the other 
two men with amazement and suspicion in her face. 

" He said — a dozen eggs," she repeated. 

The ojB&cial smiled. 

" He is clearly of the people, this citizen, since 
he has been able to be so lavish with his omelettes ! " 

He rose and crossed over to where the Marquis 
sat. 

'' So you want a dozen eggs for your breakfast, 
eh ? " he said. 

Condorcet looked at him and hated him ; he 
was furious with himself for the slip that had 
brought this attention on himself, but he answered 
calmly. 

" I have seen omelettes made with as many, 
I thought, citizen." 

The other eyed him closely. 

" You are a servant looking for a place V\ 

" Yes, citizen." 

His questioner stood over him in the attitude 
of a judge and thrust his thumbs into his tricolour 
sash ; he was noticing the make and look of this 
haggard, ragged figure, the shape of his hands, 
the pose of the head, the steady gaze of the eyes 
unknown in one born in servitude. 

237 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" Where have you come from ? " 

" Paris." 

" You are very tattered, citizen, to have come 
such a short way." 

Condorcet moved his arms on the table, and 
put up the right hand to rest his chin in ; this 
attitude, so unconscious, so easy, so coolly re- 
flective and authoritative betrayed him utterly ; 
the fact that he had not risen when spoken to had 
in itself been almost sufficient to confirm the 
official's suspicion. 

" I have been out of a place," said the Marquis, 
*' some time. I have hopes of another at Bourg- 
la-Eeine." 

The other laughed. 

" You are a ' suspect,' " he said. " And you 
lie very badly." 

Condorcet's eyes flashed hell-fire for an instant : 
thereby he further betrayed himself. " Who do 
you think I am ? " he asked. 

" An aristocrat." 

" You flatter me, citizen." Condorcet's face 
was dark and violent ; he could not keep his tone 
humble ; he could not forget that this man might 
have been his servant a few years ago — a creature 
who would never have presumed to address him ; 
all the lessons of the Revolution had not killed 
his heritage of aristocratic pride. 

" Stand up," said the man from Bourg-la-Reine. 

The Marquis kept his seat. 

" I stand up when I rise to leave the inn, 
citizen," he answered. 

238 



THE ARISTOCRAT 

The other man was standing watchfully by the 
door ; the woman had summoned others ; they might 
be seen in the passage, a rough hovering group. 

Condorcet knew that he was trapped ; his 
nostrils dilated and his thin lips compressed ; 
he eyed his enemy steadily. 

" Now I will go on my way," he said, and rose — 
a gaunt, ragged figure against the background of 
sunny chestnut leaves tapping at the thick glass 
window-panes. He came round the table and he 
walked easily despite his bleeding feet and the 
rough boots that galled them. The heavy person 
of the ofi&cial barred his way. 

" Will you not wait for your dozen eggs ? " 
he sneered and put out a thick hand to seize the 
Marquis' shoulder, but Condorcet moved swiftly 
aside. 

'' Your insolence " he breathed. " You 

have no right to detain me." 

The people round the door began laughing ; 
Condorcet gave them a bitter look, and in that 
instant when his eyes were directed his opponent 
seized him and thrust him backwards against the 
wall, while he plunged a hand into his torn pocket. 

Condorcet shuddered and the blood surged up 
into his hollow face while the official pulled out a 
small old book with a discoloured calf cover. 

" A foreign language ! " he cried, fluttering 
over the leaves. " I smell treason ! " 

"Is it treason to read Horace ? " asked the 
Marquis fiercely. 

*' Do you — a servant— rea^^ this ? " was the 
239 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

triumphant counter question. " Eh, do you read 
this, then 1 " 

The people at the door began to crowd into the 
room ; the Marquis took a step forward ; there 
was no possible supposing that he would escape 
the malice and fury fronting him ; he did not for 
an instant hope it ; instinctively, his right hand 
went round to his left hip where his sword should 
have been. 

The unmistakable gesture was instantly noticed 
and excited murmurs went up from the gathered 
peasants. 

" By God, you are an aristocrat ! " cried the 
man from Bourg-la-E-eine, seizing him roughly. 

" By God I am ! " answered Condorcet, and 
struck him across the face. . . . 

They fell on him with quick and hideous noises ; 
he felt himself seized, struck, shaken, pushed, 
dragged, insulted ; he kept his head high and was 
silent. 

They found a rope and tied his arms behind 
him, and with the ends of this rope struck him 
across the shoulders. The important official, 
nursing a smarting face, was incoherent in the 
coarse violence of his abuse. 

The woman trembled at the edge of the group, 
stupidly afraid. 

" Who is he V she asked again and again. 

They took the question up. 

" Who are you ? Scelerat ! " 

*' One who has served the Republic," he replied, 
white with the pain of his close-bound arms. 

240 



THE ARISTOCRAT 

They pushed him into the centre of the room 
while they paused to consider what they should 
do with their prize, and as he stood there, swaying 
a little, but upright, the light was full on his face, 
which had once been so famous in Paris. 

The stern outlines, the dark colouring, the fiery 
expression were the same ; unwashed, unshaven, 
starved as he was, the little timid man, who had 
lived in Paris, recognised him. 

" Deauville ! Deauville ! " he shrieked to his 
master, dancing in his excitement, " it is Con- 
dorcet ! Condorcet ! " 

The Marquis made no denial ; his silence was 
confirmation and he meant it to be ; he knew 
that he was face to face with the end and he was 
for no further subterfuge ; he had tasted already 
of the depths of humiliation, he was enduring the 
extreme of bitterness ; there was nothing further 
to lose or gain in this world for Marie Jean Nicolas 
de Caritat. 

Presently, while some were arguing about his 
identity, he said in his rough broken voice, with 
the clear accent that they hated — 

" I am Condorcet. Make an end of it." 

They had no more doubts ; his face and his 
voice had betrayed him more completely even 
than his twelve eggs and his Latin Horace ; they 
were elated at the capture of a man so long un- 
successfully searched for ; they drank together, 
congratulating each other. 

Only the woman serving them noticed the 
prisoner — noticed the cords cutting his wrists, 

241 R 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

the drop of pain on his brow, the effort he was 
making to keep upright on his feet. 

In a dim, vague way she was aware of the mental 
torture he was enduring, compared to which the 
torture of cord and bleeding feet was slight ; she 
felt that this was a proud man enduring the ex- 
tremity of humiliation and that no more awful 
bitterness could be imagined in this world. 

" He suffers," she said under her breath, " he 
suffers." 

Presently they started ; four men and the two 
from Bourg-la-Eeine, towards which town's prison 
they turned. 

Condorcet was in the middle ; the four with 
the prisoner went on foot, the others on horseback. 

Strange thoughts came to the Marquis de 
Condorcet as he walked bound between his four 
rude guards, as he walked painfully, dragging his 
fatigued body on bleeding feet along the hot dusty 
high-road that led to his prison. 

Thoughts strange because they were so in- 
congruous to his present situation, and because 
it was curious that in his misery he should be filled 
with all the old burning pangs of ambition and 
desire for power and glory. 

And yet he could not even die gloriously ; no 
man could have a more ignominious end than he 
would have, he knew that. He cursed the body 
that had failed him, that had broken like any 
peasant's body, that was dragging him down — 
demeaning him, bringing all his philosophy to 
mockery. His mind flew back over the salient 

242 



i 



THE ARISTOCRAT 

points of his life ; yet there was no need for him 
to consider his past years : one word covered them 
all — that word was failure. 

Failure — had any failure ever been more bitter, 
more complete ? 

For he had conceived loftily and dared greatly, 
and his fall was terrible and his end abject. 

Intolerable became the heat of the sun, intoler- 
able the dust on his dry lips, on his hot lids ; in- 
tolerable the chafing of his feet, caked with blood 
and dirt ; intolerable the deep pain of his elbows 
and the cutting of the rope round his wrists ; in- 
tolerable the agony of fatigue in his weak body, 
already worn to the last endurance. . . . 

He concentrated all his mental powers on self- 
control ; the man whose mind had flown out into 
the widest realms of thought now brought that 
same mind to bear on the terrible effort of holding 
himself upright, so that he might not, before those 
whom he despised, fall face downwards in the dust. 

He dare not think how far it was to Bourg-la- 
Keine ; he looked ahead of him and could see 
nothing — no house, no sign of a town ; only the 
dusty hedges, the dusty road. . . . 

'' Let me keep upright," he muttered to him- 
self, " let me keep upright " 

The sky seemed to be burning — blue it was, 
but not gentle — he had never understood before 
that the sky can be both blue and flaming, as 
bitter and fierce as scarlet. 

The grass, too, and the trees, they were not 
soothing nor peaceful but harsh and glaring. 

243 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" How long can I keep upright ? How long 
can I walk ? " 

He tried to snatch at old mathematical problems, 
to soothe and calm and distract himself with that ; 
he saw the figures range themselves before him — 
but they were of fire, gigantic and flaming. 

He thought that the trees had caught fire from 
the unsupportable sky, that the hedgerows were 
singeing and smoking, that the road was rising up 
before him in a column of white fire ; that all this 
fiery world was advancing on him ; everything 
was scarlet, and there was a sound in his ears like 
the beating of many drums. 

" He will fall," said the official on horseback, 
fanning himself with his hat. 

Condorcet heard the words, he saw them 
written before him in the same acrid scarlet that 
was colouring the world. He tried to protest, 
to draw himself erect, for he had heard them 
laughing ; but he felt his strength breaking hke 
brittle dry straws ; he fell head first as they had 
meant him to fall, as he had dreaded to fall, and 
his mouth filled with dust. 

When they saw that he was indeed unconscious 
and that no blows nor kicks could induce him to 
rise, they lifted him up and dragged him between 
them to Bourg-la-Keine. As they entered the 
town he recovered consciousness enough to know 
that his martyrdom was complete and that he was 
the object of all the town idlers' ridicule as he 
was drawn along, ragged, bloody, with a distorted 
face, between two of his peasant guards. 

244 



THE ARISTOCRAT 

They brought him to the prison, an old building 
in bad repair ; his head hung down on his breast, 
shaking from side to side. The soldiers and jailers 
greeted him and his escort with amusement. 

" What have we here ? " 

" A philosopher citizen — an aristocrat citizen. 
In here, citizen, and consider this same philosophy 
of yours ! " 

They thrust him into a cell several feet below 
the ground ; the foul damp of it hung close round 
walls and roof. 

" The citizen is a little weak in the legs — he 
will have a little business to transact in Paris ; 
supper and a bed for the citizen." 

" Who is he ? " 

" Condorcet, citizen." 

" Ah, at last — manifestly for the guillotine — 
without a trial." 

" Without a trial, surely, citizen." 

The heavy door closed on him ; the key turned ; 
they went away and drank, and in their drink 
forgot him. 

For a while he lay face downwards on the 
cold mud floor ; the rope had been loosened 
from his hands ; presently he shook them free and 
sat up. 

The cell was half underground and almost 
entirely dark ; the high-placed window was heavily 
barred across and evidently looked out on some 
close courtyard, for the Hght that came from it 
was pale and uncertain. 

Condorcet rose, shuddering strongly ; the damp 
245 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

of the place was bitter and insistent, after the heat 
without the chill was horrible. 

He staggered against the door and flung his 
weight against it. 

" You ! You ! " he whispered. " You think 
you have me ? — No, for I have one friend left." 

He slipped down by the door and lay there, 
thinking. 

Often had he wondered quite how the end 
might come, and speculated how he would meet 
it ; in these days a man would naturally consider 
a violent death as possible, especially if he meddled 
with affairs of government ; but he had never 
considered that he would first be so cruelly broken 
and humbled. 

He regretted that he had fled when Eobespierre 
proscribed him ; far better to have died then 
than like this. . . . But he closed his mind to 
the past, over which he wrote that one word — 
failure. 

The hard bright philosophy of Voltaire, scorn- 
ing mystery, cynical of any future state, was of 
little comfort now ; his own book on the human 
spirit seemed very shallow in the recollection ; 
these things were for Hfe, not for death. Nothing 
helped now but courage. Just that one quahty 
that would bring him safely into the unknown, 
the harbour to which he was now so swiftly bound. 

He felt very weak and ill ; he shivered continu- 
ally, yet his blood was burning with fever ; he 
dragged himself into a sitting posture, put his 
hand inside his miserable shirt and took from a 

246 



THE ARISTOCRAT 

cord round his heart — his one friend. A little 
package containing a phial — poison, bought in 
a cold dawn at a little druggist's in Paris on that 
day when he had left the city for ever. 

" I have suffered enough," he said. " Enough." 

But he put the package back, for he thought 
that they meant to bring him food and a bed, and 
he would rather die on a bed, and he would rather 
ease the horrible burning of his cracked throat by 
a draught of water however stale and vile, before 
he composed himself to death. 

But the time crept on and no one came ; there 
was not a sound without ; it was obvious that 
they had forgotten him ; the little light began to 
fade into Condorcet's endless night. 

He rose to his full thin height and a huge 
disdain enveloped him ; a quiet silence fell on his 
soul ; he knew that he would never speak again ; 
there was nothing left now that he could put into 
words. 

He went to the wall under the window where 
the damp oozed in a thin trickle and put his lips 
to it, moistening them. 

A little longer he waited, but no one came ; 
his disdain grew ; his disdain of all things as they 
were, as they must be, as they would always be ; 
disdain of the world that had seized him, crushed 
him, reduced him with all that was fine and noble 
and far-reaching and splendid in him, to this ugly 
sordid end. 

He stooped and pulled up his stockings, fasten- 
ing them as neatly as he could under the straps of 

247 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

his breeches ; then he moved back and tried to 
see a star through the window ; but darkness of 
masonry blocked his view ; there was no sky 
visible. 

He opened the phial and drank. 

" Some one bungled when the world was made," 
he thought. 

He lay down along the floor and closed his eyes ; 
and presently he spread his arms out in the form of 
a cross. And presently it grew completely dark in 
the cell. 

H: !(: ^ H: 4: 

In the morning they remembered him and came 
to take him to Paris. 

A terrible figure with a sealed face was lying 
on the damp prison floor, and the people were 
spoiled of some sport. 



248 



THE BETROTHED OF PEDRO EL 
JUSTICAR 

Jehanne Plantagenet 

" Joan, contracted to Pedro the Cruel, but died." — History of 
England. 

" Haro ! Mettes moi une emplastre 
Sus le coer, car, quant m'en souvient, 
Cette souspirer me couvient 
Tant sui plains de melancolie — 
^ Elle mouret jone et jolie, 

Environ de vingt et deux ans." 

Jean Froissart, 

I, Abbess of the Nunnery of St. Bertha, which 
Heth quietly among the Surrey holmes, am much 
given to this art of writing, new to women. Sith 
in my time I have written of dogs, hawks and 
forestry and tricked out the same with broad and 
good emblazons of colour, to the glory of God and 
England. 

Now, on fair new parchments scented with 
the herbs which grow in the convent garden I will 
write of Jehanne Plantagenet, who was the daughter 
of our late Lord, Edward, King of England and 
France. 

This King had eight sons and four daughters — 
Isabeau, Duchess of Bedford ; Mary, Duchess of 
Bretagne ; Margaret, Countess of Pembroke, and 

249 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

Jehanne, who died unmarried and whom I loved 
exceedingly. 

She was even more goodly to look upon than her 
sisters and of a great debonnair gentleness in her 
manners, tall with eyen gray as glass and hair of 
a rippling gold. 

She was very learned in her devotions and 
charitable to the poor, having learnt these virtues 
from her mother, Philippa. 

And she was able with her loom to form noble 
pictures of hunts and jousts and saints in fair 
colours of blue and red and green, with flowers 
on the grass and birds in the trees so that they 
were the wonder of all who beheld them ; and her 
brother, the Prince Johan, had a saddle-cloth 
she had woven with his armories, Kichmond, 
Lancastre, Aquitaine and Lincoln, mingled with 
the Leopards of England, which was the marvel 
of the Spanish Knights when he went with Edward 
of Wales and Counciell into Spain to fight the 
Free Companies under the Sire Du Guesclin for 
the sake of Don Pedro, called Justicar by his 
people. 

It is about this time I would write ; this Don 
Pedro was cast from his throne by Don Enrique 
of Trastamare, his half-brother, who was aided 
by the French Free Companies that were lured out 
of France, where they did much mischief, by the 
King of that country, Charles, to plunder and 
despoil Spain. 

Now, Pedro and his two daughters, Constantia 
and Isabeau, fled to Bordeaux, where our Princes 

250 



THE BETROTHED OF PEDRO EL JUSTICAR 

were, and besought their protection, which was 
given right gladly. 

And the English made march through Spain 
with thirty thousand men, and there was a cruel 
skirmish at Nafara in the spring season, 1367, 
and it ended in the discomfiture of Enrique and the 
French, and a right evil day for them, for the 
English went a-chasing of them and slew them 
to a goodly number and set on the throne again 
Sir Pedro of Burgundy. 

This was a well foughten battle, and one that 
gave great renown to our valiant English Knights, 
who did acquit themselves with much hardiness 
and caused the Knights of Spain to recule before 
them in such wise that there was no getting them 
to another battle. 

And this was the conquest of Spayne; now I 
will tell you of London and of Jehanne Plantagenet 
whose dame I was. 

When came the news of the victory she was 
very joyous, and took me out with her on to the 
ramparts beyond the Chepe and the Church of 
the blessed Saint Paul, where the hawthorn and 
the eglantine that hath such a sharp sweet smell 
was burgeoning. 

And with her were other maidens who had 
Knights at the wars, either in Spayne or Almaine 
or with King Wencelaus, and she questioned them 
of their lovers and spoke of Sir Johan Chandos in 
pleasant seeming, and of Sir Bertram Du Guesclin, 
wlio was made prisoner, and she spoke of her 

251 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

brother's banners and how all had fallen back 
before them, and she gave their cry, " St. George, 
Gayonne ! " in a laughing voice, across the fields. 

Presently she made wreaths of daisies and cast 
them down a swift-running stream and watched 
them go, joyously ; and still she spoke of the 
EngUsh and how they had held their Easter in the 
city of Burgos. 

So I had great marvel to find her the day after, 
pensive in the window, with a sad air, and I asked 
her ailment, but with no manner of success ; she 
put me by courteously and kept her counsel. 

And I who held her in such worship could in 
no wise pleasure her, even by speaking of the 
adventures in Spayne and her dear brothers, 
Edward, Lyon, Edmund and Johan, for she 
saddened from day to day, and in the night made 
lamentable sorrows which she would give no 
reason for, and so from the blithest damosel of 
the court she was like to become the saddest. 

And it fortuned that I discovered the cause, 
for I heard that our lord the King was to conclude 
a marriage between this princess and King Don 
Pedro of Castile, so to make sure the pact between 
them ; certainly I believed this was why she was 
so downcast, for she would not leave England ; 
yet I had marvel at it, for he of Spayne was a 
gentle knight and well renouned then, though 
afterwards dishonoured. 

Then the King bid her to him, and in the name 
of love and lineage commanded her to this match, 
and she durst not deny him, but afterwards she 

252 



THE BETROTHED OF PEDRO EL JUSTICAR 

came to me and drew me into a window above the 
river and spoke to me. 

" Dame," she said, " I am to wed the King of 
Spayne." 

And she took her face in her two hands right 
mournfully. 

Then I advised me well and answered — ■ 

" He is a very mighty King and companion 
at war to your two noble brothers." 

" Dame," she said, " I shall not go to Spayne." 
And with great gentleness she sighed. 

Now, it was Sunday evening and a great press 
of clouds about the sun, all red and violet, and in 
the water also these colours and the bridge white 
in the glowing brightness, and I looked out on 
these things as I answered — 

" Ye must do your devoir to your father." And 
Jehanne Plantagenet made reply — 

" Yea, I will do my devoir, please God, but I 
shall not go to Spayne." 

And she lifted her head to aview the sunset, 
and we heard the sowning of the trumpets as the 
companies of the King's archers came into the yard. 

Then she took my hands and said — 

" Dame Alys, give me leave and I will this day 
tell you something — and something heavy withal." 

I had great joy and honour in her amours, and 
I answered her — 

" Behold my heart is as your own." 

Whereat she kissed me and said, " Ye shall 
hear." And her eyes were troublous of grief as 
she spoke. 

253 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" Truly," she said, " when I go to bed right 
doleful and weary of heart, one comes and parts 
the curtains and stands looking at me, and it is 
a lady in a gown of samite with a crown on her 
hair and rings on her hands, and she looks at me 
mournfully and as one who would give me warning." 

Then I was amazed, and made reply : "I 
desire you by the love of God to tell me who this 
lady is." 

Then said Jehanne Plantagenet — 

*' I think it is Blaunche of France, who was 
first wife to this Don Pedro, and is now in Heaven." 

" Surely," I said, " this cannot be. Wherefor 
should she give you warning ? " 

" Sith you ask me," said Jehanne Plantagenet, 
*' I believe she gives me warning that I am to 
marry a right dishonourable and migentle Knight 
and one that would slay me even as he slew her." 

Thereon I, right affrighted, bade her speak 
words of good cheer, for this was a grievous thing 
she said, and one not for credence that the King 
Don Pedro had slain Queen Blaunche. 

But the Princess was sure of it, for she vowed 
the vision came as a warning. 

'' And I," she said, " sith I would rather die 
in Westminster than live in Spayne, will not have 
this marriage." 

Then was I bhthe to tell her of the great feast- 
ings there would be for her wedding, both in this 
realm and in Spayne, and how she would be a 
Queen and have her own court ; howbeit, she put 
it all by. 

254 



b 



THE BETROTHED OF PEDRO EL JUSTICAR 

" Dame Alys," she said, " say no more, for I 
have such a love for another man that I may not 
bear to leave the place where he is." Then a 
two times she gave a little sigh, and I was sore 
amazed. 

" Dear lady," I said, " Who is he ? " 

She answered me. " A man of war, one of the 
divers captains of the King's archers, and I have 
such a puissant affection for him that I could not 
turn to any other." 

There was a while stillness and one without 
touched the dulcimere, and I heard the bells ring- 
ing from the Abbey of St. Peter, and the sun was 
almost set. 

Then Jehanne Plantagenet kneeled down to 
me. 

*' Peradventure you will be good to me," and 
she laid hold of my hands. *' This Knight's name 
is Sir Paon de Brambre, and I have never spoken 
to him all my Hfe, though every day I see him 
and he loves me well. Now I have prayed Christ 
and Mary to save my soul alive, and I think to- 
night I shall go with my lady Blaunche, but first 
I would speak to this Knight I love so well." 

All this she said right graciously, but I wept 
for ruth while she spoke again. 

" Dame Alys, get me this knight here into 
my chamber after supper that I may take leave 
of him, let him come in full armour with his 
shield." 

And though I broke my devoir I let it be 
established between us that I would bring this 

255 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

captain, and afterwards I found him in a study 
in the garden and gave him my message, whereat he 
went right pale. 

Now, when I returned to the chamber of Jehanne 
I found she had Ht it full of fair wax candles and 
was seated on the dais clad in a red gown of 
Damascus richly besewn ; and she looked pale 
and thin, yet joyous, and bade me beside her 
until I was to let in secretly the Knight Sir Paon, 
which I did presently. 

And he was all armed save he carried his 
bassenet ; on his arm was a long-pointed shield 
painted with his armory, and his face was wasted 
and sad and his eyen blue as Thames water. 

Right within the door he went on his knees 
and folded his hands with never a word. 

And from the dais at the other end of the 
chamber Jehanne Plantagenet looked at him and 
said a-high — 

" Sir, in God's name, tell me if you have a great 
love for me ? " 

And he a little changed countenance and bent 
his head very slowly. 

" God hath holpen me to this moment," he said, 
" but He cannot put it into my mouth to say how 
much I love you." 

" Sir," she answered him, " ye may always 
have me for your lady, and though ye are not rich 
in goods or heritage ye shall be rich in this that 
she, who was a King's daughter, loved you ex- 
ceedingly, and I think you will be a worthy Knight 
and one full of honours, and when you have a wife 

256 



THE BETROTHED OF PEDRO EL JUSTICAR 

I pray you tell her of me and let her be a fair 
woman, but as for me I am contracted to a villain 
knight in the name of love and lineage, and 
yet will not marry him and yet will do my 
devoir." 

Then Sir Paon shook in his harness, and I had 
great pity of his dolours. 

" Fair sir, recomfort yourself," said Jehanne, 
" I have lived gaily and shall die loyal. See you 
these candles, ten for the ten commandments 
whole and unbroken, seven for the seven works of 
charity and the seven deadly sins, five for the Five 
Wounds and the five senses, three for the Trinity. 
Now when I am dead and ye see these burning 
about my tomb and the poor people saying prayers 
for my soul, I beseech that you shall add a taper 
to my memory." 

And the water washed his eyen and he could 
not speak. 

"As I so greatly loved this goodly town of 
London," said Jehanne, " ye, living here, shall 
think of me, even at the time of the jousts and the 
great feasts, Easter, Christmas and the Holy 
Trinity, and remember I ever loved you the alder- 
beste of all in the world." 

And Sir Paon was sore discomfited that she 
should talk of death, and she came down from the 
dais. 

" Truly," she said, " this world is nothing and 
love is a great deal, and it matters not at all if we 
be dead or ahve if we love — one another." 

Then fair and softly she bent a little towards 
257 s 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

him and held out her hand, and he took it as if it 
had been God His robe and pressed his tears 
upon it, but she the while was smiling. 

And so they parted, and he went his way and 
Jehanne kissed me on the brow and said prayers 
before the candles, and then to bed silently. 

And I had great ruth of all I had seen that 
night and for the dolorous sorrows of these two, 
and I wished that two that so loved might have 
been mated. 

So I lay awake listening to the bells and the 
throstle that now and again moved in the orchard 
boughs as it came to the dawning. And presently 
I heard sweet words that came from the chamber 
of Jehanne Plantagenet. 

" Lady Blaunche, Lady Blaunche, have you 
come for me ? " 

Then I advised with myself well and was very 
afraid and sat up in bed, but could by no means 
speak. 

For a long while it was silent, and I rose at last 
and went into the inner chamber, and it was cool 
with an Eastern Ught. 

And Jehanne Plantagenet was lying out with 
the chequered curtains of blue and white withdrawn 
from her visage and the clothes of the bed straight 
over her and no breath at all in her body. 

Bound her were burning the candles of fair 
and pure wax, and she was surely dead. 

And because I felt there were Heavenly Spirits 
in the room I kneeled me down, and these two 
princesses, Jehanne Plantagenet and Blaunche of 

258 



THE BETROTHED OF PEDRO EL JUSTICAR 

France, went hand in hand across the orchards to 
Paradise. 

She was carried through the city she loved 
with her visage open and her head on a white 
cushion and buried in a painted tomb behind the 
High Altar of St. Paul's Church, and Don Pedro 
was slain by Don Enrique not long after, and I 
kept my peace. 

Now Sir Paon de Brambre went to Almaine 
and died fighting. . . . 



259 



THE MACEDONIAN GEOOM 

The Emperor Michael III 

How shall I care that I am blind when I have seen 
enough colour in my days to fill the rest of meagre 
time ? 

Here in the Monastery in Armenia I have a 
little boy to read to me — sometimes Photias, 
sometimes John Damascenus the Syrian, sometimes 
the Fathers of the Church. 

This I buy with the much money saved when 
I was in the train of the Emperor Michael now 
wailing in Hell. 

I am very old and repentant, and soon I shall 
swing censers in Heaven, and my eyes shall be 
replaced with rubies from God's own throne ; the 
scent of crushed roses and ambergris shall soothe 
my nostrils and I shall sit close to the gate that I 
may look from the gold bars on to the flames of Hell 
and see the Emperors there, Michaels, Constantines, 
and Leos and presently the Emperor Basil the 
Macedonian, being thrust into the deepest pit of all. 

It is Christmas eve, and I hear them singing 
in the choir . . . such patient men, these monks, 
but then very few of them have seen Constanti- 
nople. I am richer than they, though blind, for I 
have memories. 

260 



THE MACEDONIAN GROOM 

I do not miss my sight, for what is there to 
see here ? They have no gold nor silver nor 
mosaic in their church nor painted curtains or 
curious robes. 

I shall be glad to gain Heaven that I may see 
the shoes of God, crystal, gilt and pointed and His 
girdle of great blue stones and the attire of the 
angels, fine cambric worked with silks from Persia, 
purple of a live blood colour and green like a split 
jade. 

So I talk and the Httle boy writes while they 
sing in the chapel ; they humour me because I 
am so very old and I despise them all. 

To-night I have a loosened tongue ; I could 
tell secrets now. . . . 

Write, write, write the last scene I saw before 
I was blind — how the Sclaronion gained the throne 
and how the Amorian died. 

Come nearer, for my voice is very weak. What 
if this was the last night of all for me and I should 
wake to see the banners of God blowing about 
His throne ? 

So write, for I know more than I have ever 
told. 

It was the year 866 that the Emperor Michael 
surnamed the Drunkard, took for his fellow Emperor 
Basil the Macedonian groom. This was reward for 
what Basil had done at Kepos, where he had 
stabbed the Caesar through the back. This Caesar 
Bardas was a clever man, but Basil was more 
cunning ; this Bardas the Caesar was uncle to the 
Emperor, and had in his time slain Theoktistos, 

261 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

so he, too, is in Hell, for he died without a prayer. 
But I have prayed before the images and given 
them robes of silk pleasant to handle. Basil the 
groom had come to Constantinople on foot with a 
wallet on his back and become a stable boy to an 
officer of the court, and once when the Emperor 
was driving his own white horses in the Hippo- 
drome, he saw this Basil wrestle with a Bulgarian 
and overthrow him ; the Macedonian had great 
credit for this, and Michael took him into his 
service, for he was a man of wonderful strength. 

I never saw one taller ; his hair was very 
thick bright brown and curling, his face had a 
look of hideous power and his neck was massive 
as the trunk of a young tree. 

He had a great gift with horses, for there was 
never one whom he could not subdue with a touch 
and a whisper ; soon, it seemed, he had this power 
with the Emperor, too, for Michael made him 
Chamberlain and cast money into his lap as gifts 
are cast before the Images. 

Who knew what went on outside the mighty 
palace ? I tell you none could guess. . . . But 
5^ou have heard of Eudocia Ingerina ; she was 
a daughter of the Martinakes, and the Emperor 
would have married her, but because her family 
was so mighty his mother, Theodora, prevented 
this, and he married Eudocia, the daughter of 
Dekapolitas. . . . 

Then there was Thekla, the sister of Michael, 
and she loved Basil, but the Emperor married him 
to Eudocia, who would be Empress some way ; 

262 



THE MACEDONIAN GROOM 

she never forgave it, for he had resigned her for 
fear of his mother, vanished now to Gastria, after- 
wards to Anthimos. 

It was their women behind it all. . . . Those 
were great golden days. Eudocia Ingerina, with 
the Emperor for her lover and the groom for her 
husband, kept the splendid revels gorgeously, but 
in her heart she waited for vengeance on Michael 
and his mother, on all of them who had debarred 
her from the throne — I knew it always. 

At one time I was her chamberlain. She was 
a woman beautiful and vain ; in my perpetual 
darkness I can see her features, her black hair 
cHnging to her white shoulders, the plates of gold 
and clanging metal, of wine-red and serpent-green 
stones about her brow, her long, long eyes and 
small mouth, expressionless — her perfumed linen 
and her mantles of furs and silver. . . . 

It was worth living then ; it is worth living 
now to think of it. Write, write the colour, the 
glitter, the glory and the power of it, the days 
burning into the nights with the lights of a thousand 
jewelled lamps glowing behind screens of silk, the 
marble halls strewn with flowers, the slaves with 
bands of scarlet on their foreheads, the chariot 
races, the shouting crowds, the taste of wine and 
fruit, the perfect women with heavy hair, the 
churches shining with burnished bronze and gold. 
. . . Sometimes I dread that Heaven cannot be 
so delicious. . . . 

In May, then, Michael made Basil Emperor 
with him, joint ruler of the Eastern Empire, 

263 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

sharer of the throne of the Caesars, and in the winter 
of that year he gave the imperial title to a third, 
BasiHskian. 

Now there were glorious orgies and splendid 
riotings of feasts and games ; and each wondered 
which Emperor would first slay the other ; and 
Michael was grown to be afraid of Basil, who was 
changed from a drunken groom into an Emperor 
and a graver man. 

With this terror on him, he came to Eudocia 
Ingerina . . . 

Do you think I hear the monks chanting and 
see darkness ? 

No, I hear the trumpets ; I see the Emperor 
Michael with his black hair unbound and his whip 
in his hand as he has returned from the Hippo- 
drome standing against the leopard cat couch, 
while the sun embraces the snakes on his buskins. 
And she, Eudocia Ingerina, seated on a stool inset 
with opal holding lilies in her hand. 

" So," he said, " I am afraid of this Basil 
whom I took from the kennels ; he must go swiftly 
as he came, Eudocia." 

" You made him my husband," she answered, 
and threw the hlies down. 

The fine silk curtains were lifting in an Eastern 
wind ; the sun slipped under them and gilded the 
sloping orange walls of Numidian marble and the 
girdle of turkis round her waist. 

" I am afraid of him," repeated the Emperor, 
and he shook. 

She looked away and he went on his knees 
264 



THE MACEDONIAN GROOM 

and laid his head on her lap, dropping the whip 
stained with the blood and foam of his horses. 
Neither of them had any heed of me standing in 
the outer peristyle where the bronze pots of roses 
were, nor of the two slaves in tiger skins. 

" Do you weep ? " she asked, and lifted his 
thick hair in her small round fingers. 

He looked up with red eyes. 

" Basil is dangerous," he muttered. 

She leant towards him delicately. 

" Why did you not make me Empress ? " she 
questioned, and rose up, repulsing him. 

He got to his feet and went swaying down the 
corridors with clattering African slaves and Persian 
guards after him. 

That night at the feast one of his madnesses 
came upon the Emperor ; the daemons got hold 
of him and he fought them off, howhng ; then he 
and Basil and Basiliskian gave commands that the 
bodies of the Ikonoclast Emperors be taken from 
their tombs, for they were the daemons who haunted 
us. And this was wonderful, for by the light of 
torches of pine the body of Constantine, fifth of 
that name, was dragged from his sarcophagus and 
thrown out on to the sand of the circus ; and there 
was he, ninety years dead, white as shredded ivory, 
clad in cerecloths of tarnished gold and heavy 
violet that gave out a thick, sweet scent of spices ; 
and there was John the Grammarian beside him, 
wdth a Httle crown on his head and hair falling 
into dust across his eye-sockets — aha ! we beat 
them with rods in the vile quarter of the Amaskianon 

265 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

where the daemons gather and the people were glad 
because they were image worshippers : these two 
Emperors could not see, for they were blind, as I 
am now. Then we burnt them where the common 
thiefs were executed, and the tomb of Constantine 
Copronymus was split into fragments to decorate 
a church the Emperor built at Pharos. 

It was all of green Thessalian marble, here clear 
as water, there thick as sap, carved with grapes, 
genii, cupids and goats, and in the middle Christ 
raised on the Cross with a gilt halo ; it was so rich 
and finely carved I think God forgave Michael 
much to get it back in His church. Look for it 
when you go to Pharos — ^green marble, a hand's 
length thick. 

Behold now I ramble on and come not to what 
I would say about that evening in the palace of 
Anthimos on the coast — the Empress Theodora's 
house where she had bid us all . . . Eudocia 
Ingerina, Basil, BasiHskian, Thekla and all the court. 

Listen to me, I was faithful to Michael, therefore 
am I blinded. ... I can tell you everything. 

The three Emperors had been hunting that 
day, and afterwards there was a mighty feast ; 
Eudocia sat by Basil at the table and often 
whispered to him. 

I was one of those who carried Michael senseless 
with wine to his chamber and laid him on his bed 
with the vermilion cushions. As I came out I 
saw the bolts of the door were broken, but I thought 
nothing of it, as it was Theodora's house. On a 
low couch with silver and amber legs lay Basiliskian, 

2G6 



THE MACEDONIAN GROOM 

with his red hair and his yellow robes tumbled about 
him ; I lay in the outer chamber. 

Beautiful were those two rooms, tiled with blue, 
patterned with carnations and curtained with silks 
stiff with fruits and flowers of gold ; above the 
couch were saints with long eyes and raised hands, 
the elders praying all in white on the daisied floor 
of Heaven, this in mosaic, glittering, and a lamp 
with square-cut green stones round the base, 
hanging before. 

Flat on his back lay Michael, with his head 
slipping from the pillows and the roses slipping 
from his black hair ; his white silk robe flowed 
open on his coat of silver and the clusters of topaz 
shone in the crossings of his gilt sandals. 

The window was wide on the night ; there was 
a moon above the tamarisk trees and a nightingale 
singing fitfully. 

It was very silent after all the noise and riot, 
and I was half asleep when the door was pushed 
open and some men entered. There was the 
third Emperor Basil, a head above them all, the 
Persian Apelates, Bardas the father of Basil, his 
brother Marines, a cousin of his, all peasants 
these, Peter of Bulgaria and John of Chaldia. 

Now I rose up softly and got before them and 
stood in front of the bed-chamber door ; for I saw 
they were all sober. 

Basil put out his great hand and gripped my 
shoulder. 

" Basil or Michael ? " he asked, and drew his 
scimitar. 

267 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" Michael," I answered him, for I hated him — 
the Greek groom ! 

With that he Hfted me out of the way, but I 
gave a great shout and beat my hand upon the 
bronze images and cast them against the tiles so 
that they cracked. 

Then they pulled me back, and I heard the 
nightingale grow louder, and I laughed with rage, 
for one struck me with a dagger. 

I turned round and saw the Emperor Michael 
staggering in the carved wood doorway, the roses 
still clinging to his disordered hair. Seeing them, 
his wits cleared. 

" Basil ! " he shrieked. " I made you Em- 
peror ! " 

They left me and turned on him, driving him 
back into the bedroom, and I lay along the floor 
with a dagger through my wrist, listening to his 
shrieks that hushed the nightingale. 

Dragging myself to the door, I beheld BasiHskian 
struggling with the Persian, and saw him fall back 
across the couch with his scarlet-shod feet up and 
his mouth open, while the blood gurgled out and 
hid the wine-stains on his yellow robes. 

I did not care for this, but looked for Michael 
and called loudly, so that they rushed out, drawing 
the curtains behind them and fled into the corridor. 

Now none came, for tumults were such common 
things, and after a little Basil came back and looked 
about him ; and after him followed Eudocia 
Ingerina in a green mantle with a lamp of bright 
enamel in her hand. 

268 



THE MACEDONIAN GROOM 

" Have you done it ? " she asked, and I knew 
she had set Basil on, though the Emperor Michael 
had loved her. " Quick ! Have you done it ? " 

" Yes," he said, and the others came back. 

" What if he is not dead ? " said John of 
Chaldia, and shifted his ivory and silver sabre 
in his grasp. 

Then she, flashing emerald colours in her robe, 
turned on them, and I saw there is more in a woman 
than her beauty. 

" You are not sure ? " she cried, and held up 
the thousand coloured lamp. 

" Basiliskian is dead," answered Apelates. 

" Is Michael dead ? " she gave back. 

As she stepped towards the door I heard the 
soft sound her cambric garments made on the iloor, 
and saw her eyes fixed before her with an expression 
of expectancy and pleasure — eyes like the black 
jade they prize in China. But Basil held her back 
with his swarthy hand on the edge of her mantle. 

On the smooth walls of opal-tinted tiles moon- 
light flushed into lamplight that fell tinted with 
trembling colour ; I saw the dark trees through 
the window and the great space of clear sky. I 
pulled at the dagger in my wrist, and I heard the 
Emperor Michael lamenting within. 

At the sound of it all save the woman drew back. 

'' I struck his hands off," said John of Chaldia, 
'" and he fell on the ground." 

Eudocia Ingerina looked at Basil. 

" Will you be Emperor or no ? " she asked. 
^' If that man in there is not dead — what are you ? " 

269 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

His flushed blue eyes rolled towards her ; she 
twitched her robe from his grasp and lifted the 
thin silk curtains from the carved door. 

I, forgotten, caught hold of the ribbings of 
scented sandal wood and looked in . . . you 
may beheve what I saw, what I was blinded for 
seeing. 

The Emperor Michael, Lord of the East, Vice- 
regent of God, the last of the Amorian Caesars, 
sat on the floor by the gilt and glorious brocades 
of his bed. 

His hands were smitten off and his garments 
trailed with sticky blood ; his head was bowed 
on his chest and he uttered bitter complaints. 
In his black hair some crimson roses still hung ; the 
great rubies and topaz glittered on his breast. 
Behind him in the rich murk light I could see the 
other Emperor, a huddled heap of red and yellow, 
and in the middle of the marble floor (green as the 
tomb of Copronymus) the two hands of Michael, 
twisted into a clutching shape, with huge and 
wonderful rings on the fingers. 

With a soft movement like the dappled Persian 
deer Eudocia Ingerina stole into the chamber ; 
Basil and John of Chaldia were behind her ; she 
stopped before Michael ; her lamp showed his 
creeping blood. 

" Well," she said. '' Well, shall I not be an 
Empress after all ? " 

And she touched him with her foot that was 
covered with a shoe of green and violet leather, so 
that he looked up from his incoherent lamentations, 

270 



THE MACEDONIAN GROOM 

He tried to rise at that, could not, but gave a 
shudder and raised his arms. 

" Eudocia," he said, very loudly, and she 
stepped back a little, for he was a hideous sight. 

" Come kill this man," she cried ; and then to 
Michael : " Who will say masses for you ? " and 
'' I would Theodora was here." 

Basil drew a little sword with a snake for a 
handle and ]\Iichael shrieked, whereon the woman 
caught him by his long hair and held him so while 
the Macedonian plunged the weapon past the 
topaz Gorgon into his heart ; then they both cast 
him down and struck at him with their feet, even 
while his breast heaved and his eyes moved, and 
fled together into the outer chamber. 

" To Constantinople," said Basil, and he em- 
braced Eudocia and kissed her, after which she 
veiled her face with violet and left them. The 
blood on her feet was almost the last thing I saw. 

For Basil found me crawling by the wall ; and 
they took me out and blinded me and sent me 
here. . . . 

Michael is buried in ChrysopoHs, and his soul 
is in Hell ; and Eudocia was an Empress and mother 
of the Leo who rules now, and no one but I knows 
that she was there that night . . . therefore set 
these things down, for I, who am an old blind 
monk, shall soon be in Paradise clad warmly in 
starred brocade and cambric fine enough to go 
through a reed- joint, lying on a couch covered with 
soft-coloured woollens, and under my feet a carpet 
like was woven in the Peloponnesus to cover the 

271 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

mosaic in the cliurcli Basil built to assuage God's 
wrath at the murder of Michael. Did you ever 
hear of it ? 

It was one great peacock with a spread tail. . . . 
I spoke to a man who had seen it. . . . 

So I in Paradise, near, as I said to the gate 
(stately as the Adrianople Gate with the church of 
St. Diomed near by), shall peep down and see the 
Emperors, Leos, Constantines, Michaels, howling 
in Hell, and in the midst Basil and the woman 
Eudocia, while fiends swing before them censers 
of dull earth filled with sulphurs. . . . 

H: H: H: ^ H: 

So on Christmas Eve I take this down from an 
ancient monk who was chamberlain once at the 
court of Michael III. and sometimes wanders in 
his mind. 

Now he is fallen asleep, and the chants are 
over, and I will write no more. 

God guard us all from evil. Amen. 

Signed by Theophilus, a little scribe in the 
Monastery of St. John, Armenia, Christmas Eve, 
899. 



272 



THE PRISONER 

Sophia Dorothea of Zell 

"George I. was married to hia cousin, Sophia Dorothea, 
daughter of the Duke of Zell; accused of an intrigue with a 
Swedish adventurer, she was repudiated by her husband and 
imprisoned in a castle in Hanover for thirty-two years previous to 
her death in 1729." — History of England. 

December darkened over the dark flats outside 
Schloss Alilden ; the sluggish gray river, the barren 
gray road stretched into the bitter mist ; above 
the stunted alders and broken reeds the plovers 
circled mournfully. 

It was the saddest season of the year ; but all 
seasons were sad at Schloss Ahlden. Spring and 
summer brought little change, save that the 
monotony of damp cold was changed for the 
monotony of dusty heat. The Schloss had gloomy 
towers and careless unadorned rooms ; the scanty 
furniture was old and worn ; the servants were 
old, too, and had a repressed silent air. There 
were not many of these servants ; there were a 
great number of guards, changed frequently ; 
they were always glad to go — six months seemed a 
long time at Schloss Ahlden. 

The nearest town was Osnabriick, and that was 
many miles away. There was nothing beautiful 

273 T 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

nor interesting in all the melancholy country. It 
seemed strange that any one should have built a 
castle in a spot so barren and dreary ; it seemed 
as if he who built must have done so knowing that 
one day it would be used as a prison. 

A woman had been confined here for thirty- 
two years ; her husband was a King, her son would 
be a King, she was by her own birth a Princess 
and by right Queen of England, a country she had 
never seen. 

For thirty-two years she had seen nothing but 
the cold, dull rooms, the barren Hayden road, the 
flats, the river, the alders and the plovers. 

For thirty-two years she had driven three 
miles forth, three miles back along that empty 
road, stopping always at the turnpike, setting forth 
and returning at the same hour. 

When she had been brought to Schloss Ahlden 
she was gorgeous— a brilliant woman, very young, 
vivacious, sparkUng, beautiful, full of wit and 
spirit, of courage and daring. 

She had defied them all, defied even the per- 
petual imprisonment to which she was condemned. 
Something would happen, she said. 
Nothing had happened. 

She sat now, a woman older than age, a woman 
who had never bloomed and faded, who had been 
frozen in her immature loveliness, chilled by creep- 
ing monotony in face and heart, and looked out 
at^the light fading from the road and from the river 
Aller. The road was dead ; never had it responded 
to her passionate watching; no help had ever 

271 



THE PRISONER 

come along its dusty length ; no messenger spurring 
to say, " Your husband repents ; he bids you 
come back," or " Your husband is a King now ; 
his people insist that you share his throne," or 
" Your husband is dead, and your son sets you 
free ! " 

Nothing ever happened. 

With imbroken regularity her guard was 
changed. Such servants as could not endure the 
life left ; others came. 

These were all the sole incidents in the life at 
Schloss Ahlden. 

There were no letters, no messages, no visitors. 

Once her son, after a fierce quarrel with his 
father, made a desperate attempt to get to her, 
but she never knew of it, and soon the Prince was 
reconciled with the King and made no effort to 
come again. 

It was astonishing how strong hope was, how 
it lived and flourished with nothing to feed on ; 
but it died at last, as the black locks faded to gray, 
as the robust young body became feeble and thin, 
as the glowing cheek sunk and the brilHant eyes 
grew dim, hope sickened and died at last. 

She watched the white road from habit ; she 
ceased to think of it as a highway to deliverance. 
As the world had forgotten her, so she began to 
forget the world. Great wars tore Europe, and the 
man who was her husband and Elector of Hanover 
played a big part in them, though through the 
chance of birth and from no great merit ; she 
never heard of these events. 

275 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

When he became King of England she did hear 
of it, but it made no difference to her situation. 

Her name was never spoken outside the walls 
of Schloss Ahlden ; she was as remote from the 
minds of men, even from the minds of her children, 
as if she had been long dead. 

A mere memory — Sophia Dorothea of Zell, 
repudiated by her husband and a prisoner at 
Ahlden — as one might say — Sophia Dorothea of 
Zell who died thirty- two years ago and is forgotten. 

Her case had caused no sensation ; no party 
espoused her cause ; she had no followers, no 
adherents, no one planned her escape or pitied her, 
or prayed for her ; she was merely forgotten. 

Yet she was a living, breathing woman, with 
power to feel, to endure, to remember — worst of 
all, that remembering. 

The dark crept closer round her as she sat 
looking out of the window. 

The road, the river, the alders, the flats had 
come to be like the paintings on prison walls ; 
they meant nothing, they did not represent the 
world, they circled her as surely as walls and moat, 
they changed as little, they were as cruel in their 
hard barrenness. 

She had been very worldly, very gay, not in 
the least of a cloistered temperament, not given 
to caring for things spiritual ; she had enjoyed 
Ufe, she had had a great capacity for living fully 
and splendidly, a great aptitude for happiness. 
She remembered now how she had enjoyed life 
once ; it made her feel very, very old. 

276 



THE PRISONER 

The world had closed on her early ; she was 
not fifteen when her vivacious, mischievous im- 
mature beauty had been wedded to her awkward, 
slow, selfish young cousin, Georg Ludwig, son of 
the Electress of Hanover, who was remotely con- 
nected with the royal Stewarts of England. 

He had never loved her. 

And she had laughed at him, even pitied him, 
not realising the power he possessed over her. 
Even at twenty-two he had been prosaic, sullen, 
ungracious, self-important, a Prince without 
culture, or chivalry, or sensibihty, a hard, obsti- 
nate man, narrow in heart and brain. 

Even her raw ignorance had seen what he lacked. 
His unlovely person, short and stout, his dull 
blonde face with the pale prominent eyes, his rude 
manners and gross self-indulgencies roused aversion 
in her ; his good qualities were not those that made 
fife any easier for her ; he was brave in every way, 
he had much good sense, he was honourable after 
his fashion. Some women might have been happy 
with him, not the woman he had married, her 
bright, impetuous, fastidious nature, avid of en- 
joyment, was hideously ill-matched with the 
plodding, dull, coarse character of her husband. 

Even their children did not bring them together. 
When she had been married six years the Eevolution 
hurled the last Stewart from the throne of England 
and put a Prince of the German Empire in his 
place. Soon after a law was passed to secure the 
Protestant succession, and this made the Electress 
of Hanover heiress to the Throne of England. 

277 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

For a wliile Sophia Dorothea had exulted in 
the prospect of one day being Queen of the second 
nation in the world. 

She bloomed gloriously; her husband was 
openly unfaithful to her. The Httle court was 
coarse and sordid and scandalous, but she had 
the power of extracting pleasure from her life, of 
throwing the glamour of youth and health over 
everything. She was frivolous, bold — never suffi- 
ciently moved to be indiscreet, though she sailed 
near to danger many times. 

Then, when she had been married thirteen years, 
she met Philip, Count von Konigsmarck. 

After that her Hfe had ended as regarded all 
those things that made it pleasant, even endurable. 

Schloss Ahlden had closed on her youth, her 
beauty, her high spirits, her courage. Her hot 
passions had flared and wasted and waned without 
a vent for thirty-two years, and now she was an 
old woman, almost passive. 

Almost, not quite. At times her servants were 
afraid of her; at times she was like a tigress enraged. 

Even after a lifetime of imprisonment, the pas- 
sionate spirit at times still ranged and surged against 
its bonds. 

Once she had had a desperate desire to pass, if 
only once, the turnpike on the Hayden road that 
marked the limit of her drive. 

She would drive the cabriolet herself, drive 
furiously as if endeavouring to outstrip the guards 
who always galloped alongside. But no matter 
how she drove, always at the turnpike she must 

278 



THE PRISONER 

turn back. Of late she had not been out at all ; 
she spent her days glooming at the window. Her 
women had been recently changed ; only one re- 
mained, who had been with her all the time, and 
she was very old now and sour with long exile from 
her kind. 

She, Madame von Arlestein, had been the con- 
fidant of the Princess in the old, old days. 

The other attendants who came and went, and 
the changing ofi&cers of the gloomy little garrison, 
said that this austere, bitter old woman really 
knew if the Princess was innocent or guilty. Guilty 
the world had called her before it had forgotten 
her. Those few who still knew her as a living 
woman were not so sure. 

" Innocent " or '' guilty " were two arbitrary 
words with which to divide her conduct. She 
had herself always maintained her innocency of 
putting another man in her husband's place, as 
firmly as that husband had beheved in, and acted 
upon, the contrary. 

But that she had been guilty of lo^.dng Philip 
von Konigsmarck was beyond denial. Whether 
he had ever had more of her than the kiss she had 
given him when they were discovered together 
only Sophia Dorothea and the Countess von 
Arlestein knew. For Count Philip had died, 
horribly, before the dawn following that fatal 
night. No one cared much now, even those who 
waited on her, whether she had kept her marriage 
vows before God. 

Unconsciously they thought of her as pure ; 
279 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

they could not think one a wanton who had lived 
in this awful chastity and renunciation for thirty- 
two years. 

The Captain of the Guard was a young man, 
born while she was in prison. 

Thinking of what he had already crowded into 
his life, he shuddered when he saw the proud, 
grievous woman entering the austere little chapel 
on Sunday, and reflected that during his infancy, 
his childhood, his youth, his young manhood, 
she had been doing the same without rest or change, 
while the beauty withered on her face and hope 
withered in her heart. 

As he rode through the courtyard to-night he 
looked up at her window, reluctantly but irre- 
sistibly. 

There was the peaked white blur of her face, 
the dark, restless eyes fixed on the twilight land- 
scape, the long white hand supporting the sharp 
chin. 

" Herr Jesus ! " he muttered. " Why does 
she not die ? " 

Sophia Dorothea was thinking the same ; she 
wondered what had kept her alive, what had 
actually sustained her to grow old — yes, to come 
to that horror, to lead this existence to old age. 

Why had she not flung away a life so miserable 
and died at least in the triumph of youth ? 

She envied Philip von Konigsmarck in that he 
had not lived to grow old. 

Hope had upheld her a certain time, but hope 
was dead. She could recall almost the actual 

280 



THE PRISONER 

moment when it had finally died, when she had 
stood at the window watching the road, and known 
at last that no help would come ever along it to 
her — known that her husband would not die and 
release her ; but still she had lived and grown old. 

The dark gathered, descended and settled. 

She leant back in the threadbare velvet chair, 
and her tired eyes remained fixed on the dusk. 

She thought of her husband ; he was an old 
man now, but she pictured him as she had last 
seen him in the full lustiness of his youth. Her 
children were grown to middle life, but she saw 
them still in petticoats. Though both were married 
and had children of their own, the news had come 
to her through her women. 

She had once had great hopes in her son ; she 
believed that he would have some desire to see 
his mother. 

She divined rightly. Though his attempt to 
swim the Aller and storm the moat had never 
been told her, for a long while she had clung to 
the hope that he had some of the chivalry his 
father lacked ; but he was a man of forty-five now, 
and she was still a prisoner ; that hope had died 
with the others. Her daughter was a Queen, 
and that was all Sophia Dorothea knew of her. 

She soon ceased to think of them. She rose 
and went in to her dinner, which was served in the 
same room, at the same hour, always, always. 

Madame von Arlestein was not there ; she had 
the whimsies of old age ; they said she was faihng 
fast. 

281 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

The other ladies were cowed and quiet ; they 
had not been long with their mistress, and two of 
them had already petitioned to go home. 

Sophia Dorothea (Princess of Ahlden she was 
called, in ghastly compromise between the titles 
that were hers by right and the nonentity which 
she really was) was an object of terror to these 
ladies, by reason of her history, her punishment, 
her usual silence and her occasional passionate 
lashes of speech. 

Her appearance added to this horror she inspired ; 
she still wore the fashions that were the mode when 
Mary Stewart set them in England and Madame de 
Maintenon in France, and this, added to her 
arrested beauty, more terrible than old age, made 
her Hke a creature resurrected from a dusty grave. 

When her clothes were renewed, which was 
seldom, they had been cut on the same pattern, 
but many of the garments she now wore were 
those that she had brought with her when she 
had first come to Schloss Ahlden. 

She wore now a gown of faded, crackling red 
silk, with a short petticoat of frilled blue sarcenet ; 
her hair was piled up with the fan-shaped decora- 
tion of stiff lace that had been out of fashion a 
quarter of a century ; her face had a curious 
bleached look : she was not wrinkled, but her 
fine features were as faded as her gown ; she 
seemed bloodless, waxen, only in her eyes was 
that awful look of restlessness in terrible contrast 
with the lifelessness of her appearance. 

The ladies, each with her own warm life of 
282 



THE PRISONER 

human interest as a background for her thoughts, 
pitied her and shuddered at her, and in their hearts 
they counted the days until they should be relieved 
of their posts at Schloss Ahlden. 

For an hour, as always, they read and sewed 
after dinner, and, as always, the Princess sat rigid, 
looking into the fire. In summer she would look 
into the empty hearth in the same way ; she had 
a great attraction for the fire or the fireplace. 

She was never long in a room before she would 
turn to it and sit in front of it, staring into the 
flames or the grate ready for them. 

The ladies, when alone, would sometimes dare 
to breathe the rumour that accounted for this ; 
it was almost too horrid for utterance. It had to 
do with the manner in which PhiHp von Konigs- 
marck had died. 

At the usual time the chaplain came, the un- 
alterable prayer was uttered ; the ladies took up 
their candles, curtsied and waited for the Princess 
to precede them upstairs. 

She, as always, went up to her cold, unadorned 
room, was undressed and dismissed the ladies, 
then stood by the great bed with the blue tapestry 
curtains and sent for Madame von Arlestein. 

To-night she did not get into bed ; she put on 
a blue bed-gown and went to the fire that blazed, 
log on log, in the open hearth, but could not do more 
than warm a portion of the huge draughty room. 

This bedroom had been hers ever since she had 
been at Schloss Ahlden, and nothing in it had been 
altered. 

283 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

The bed stood out into the room facing the 
fireplace, shrouded with heavy curtains and heavy 
draperies ; either side was a sconce of silver hold- 
ing five candles against the wooden walls, at the 
foot was a long casket for clothes and either side 
of that a leather chair with a fringe round the seat. 

The door was to the right of the bed, the mul- 
lioned windows to the left ; they were hung with 
dark curtains and before each of them were two 
more of the formal chairs. 

In the corner beyond the windows was a plain 
dressing-table holding a few toilet articles, and 
behind it hung a mirror in a tortoise-shell frame. 

Before the fireplace were a chair with arms in 
which Sophia Dorothea now sat and a stool. 

Beyond the fireplace were a desk and an up- 
right press for clothes. 

On the polished floor lay a worn carpet ; the 
ceiling hung low and dark ; above the mantel- 
shelf stood another mirror, and four candles and 
a clock were reflected in its murky depths. 

Firelight and candlehght together caught the 
shadow of the woman in the chair and flung it 
large and leaping over wall and ceiling. 

At her usual time, neither a minute early nor 
a minute late, Madame von Arlestein entered. 

Her head was swathed in black lace and her 
shoulders in a black shawl ; her black skirts were 
wide and stiff and rustling. She held a length of 
fine white mushn that she had been embroidering 
for twenty years. 

As always, she seated herself on the stool, and 
284 



THE PRISONER 

the delicate needle, guided by her wrinkled hands, 
flew in and out the embroidery that was beginning 
to be yellow with age. 

Sophia Dorothea sat erect in her chair, the 
black hair, streaked with white as with powder, 
hung, still thick in the ruins of its beauty, about 
her shoulders. The firelight softened and warmed 
the sharp lines of her face and gave a sparkle to 
her still glorious eyes. 

*' Annette," she said, " I have been thinking 
of Philip von Konigsmarck to-night." 

The old woman looked up from her eternal 
sewing. 

" Oh, Madame," she answered, " you have not 
spoken that name for many, many years." 

" Not for thirty-two years," said the Princess. 
'' I know exactly." 

" Why now ? " asked Annette von Arlestein. 

" Have you forgotten him ? " counter-ques- 
tioned Sophia Dorothea. 

" No." 

" You remember it all? " 

" All ! " 

'' It seems very near to-night," said the Princess. 

'' Yes, I thought so too." 

The old woman broke her invariable custom 
and laid her sewing down in her lap and looked at 
her mistress. 

" Perhaps death is coming to one of us," added 
Sophia Dorothea. " We are both old. My death 
would be a rehef to a great many. Even you would 
not be sorry, Annette." 

285 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

She spoke knowing that Annette von Ailestein 
had not shared her imprisonment from any love 
or duty, but from necessity. She was as much a 
prisoner as her mistress. It had been decreed 
that she who had shared the shame should share 
the punishment. 

" It is too late," said the Countess. " Twenty 
years ago I might have wished you would die. 
Twenty years ago I might have cursed you." 

The quenchless dark eyes gleamed across at her. 

'* You would not have stayed if you could have 
gone. No one else did." 

Annette von Arlestein gave a toothless smile. 

" No, I should have gone — when I was younger. 
Life is dull here." 

Sophia gave her a ghastly look. 

" Yes, it is dull." 

A storm was blowing without. The wind cast 
the rain in gouts on the window ; it dripped from 
the leads and splashed down the wide chinniey 
m heavy drops that hissed on the logs. 

" Why do you not finish your sewing ? " asked the 
Princess. " I have never seen you sit idle before." 

" "Why did you mention Count von Konigs- 
marck 1 " repHed Madame von Arlestein. " I 
have never heard you speak of him before." 

" Every night lately I have been thinking of 
him. You know that." 

" Yes, I know that." 

Like an angry stranger demanding admission, 
the rain surged at the window and the faded 
curtains rose and fell in the wind. 

28G 



THE PRISONER 

" Annette," said Sopliia Dorothea, " why have 
we lived, you and I ? We could have died, you 
know. There was the moat, or a table-knife — 
or a bed-cord. But we lived." 

*' I suppose," answered the old woman, " we 
hoped." 

" Mein Gott ! We hoped ! " 

The Countess looked across at her with dim 
eyes that seemed to glimmer with mahce. "But 
now — if he died to-morrow, it would be too late. 
There is no more enjoyment for you in this world." 

'' No more for me of anything," said her mistress 
calmly. '* Konigsmarck is dead and youth is 
dead." 

" Why are we talking of this ? " asked the old 
woman peevishly, *' when we have been silent so 
long ? " 

*' I do not know. Get on with your embroidery." 

** Ber Hen Jesus ! Why should I finish this 
work ? Who will wear it ? " 

" Talk, then, talk," said Sophia Dorothea. 
" Something is different to-night." 

" It is the rain," nodded the old woman. Her 
monstrous shadow wavered behind her like a giant 
impotently threatening. 

'' It is memory," answered the Princess. She 
relaxed in her chair. Her arms, still lovely but 
colourless as the Hmbs of the dead, showed where 
the wide sleeves of dull blue fell apart, and her 
hands, almost inhumanly slender, clasped the 
pohshed knobs of the chair-arms. " Was I beauti- 
ful — that night ? " she said. " I scarcely knew it." 

287 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

Annette von Arlestein looked at the ruined 
face, pale beneath the grey locks, the thin bare 
throat, the sunk dark eyes, the lined mouth. 
" I can hardly recall what you were," she muttered ; 
" I can hardly think you are the same." 

A veil seemed to drop over her eyes ; she too 
was remembering. 

" Annette," said the Princess, " do you think 
he has been just to me ? " 

*' It is so long ago," whispered the Countess. 

" He has enjoyed these thirty- two years,'* 
replied Sophia Dorothea. " He is an old man 
now ; he cannot be very far off answering to 
judgment. I wonder what God will think of what 
he has done to me." 

The Countess chuckled. Neither of these 
women had drawn nearer Heaven themselves 
during their captivity, no thoughts of spiritual 
consolations had sweetened the bitterness of their 
earthly punishment and no repentance had 
softened their hearts. 

" There has always been one prick in his side," 
said Annette von Arlestein. " He was never 
sure — ^he had no froof. There has been a doubt 
with him all his life. He will never know." 

" No one knows but you and I," answered the 
Princess. She leant forward and looked into 
the fire. " How I hate him ! " she said slowly. 
** What is he doing at this moment — the King of 
England — that cold, hideous man ? " 

" If curses could have blighted him," mumbled 
the old Countess angrily, '' mine had done it long 

288 



THE PRISONER 

ago. When he sent me here I still had blood in 
my veins ; I enjoyed the world — I had my plans, 
and schemes, my pleasant seasons " 

The Princess rose ; her figure was yet erect and 
graceful ; the warm lights and shades touched it 
to youthful curves. 

" Was there anything in the marriage service," 
she said, " to say that he should take his pleasures 
and his loves where he would and that I must 
never look beyond my wedding ring ? " 

She held out her left hand and looked at the 
mocking symbol on her finger placed there forty- 
six years ago by the man who held her captive now. 

*' You might have had more of life," said the 
Countess. " The punishment could not have been 
greater if you had changed your fancies as he 
changed his ! " She laughed silently, as if it 
pleased her to think how her mistress had been 
cheated. 

There was a pause of silence, broken only by 
the gusty descent of the rain on the window and 
the splashing of the drops on the glowing logs. 

Sophia Dorothea closed her eyes. 

" Do you remember," she murmured, and her 
expression was greedy as the expression of one 
ghmpsing the food he is famishing for, " that 
night — how young I was ? " 

" Do I remember ? It was the last thing that 
ever happened to me," answered Annette von 
Arlestein. 

Before the mental vision of both the tragedy 
that had been lying silently in their hearts so 

289 u 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

long loomed suddenly clear and distinct, as if it 
had happened yesterday. There was silence. 

They saw the scene before them as if they had 
not been actors in it. 

A luxurious bedroom, a white and gilt imitation 
of Versailles, filled with elegant furniture, fashion- 
able toilet articles and splendid clothes, a bed of\ 
white satin and many mirrors — this was what 
they both saw. 

All was brilliant, pretty and cheerful. 

At the foot of the bed stood a beautiful woman, 
Sophia Dorothea, opulent in charms and happi- 
ness ; her black hair rolled in curls between a 
braid of pearls and fell on her soft shoulders. 
White and crimson mingled ravishingly in her 
face and her dark eyes were soft, yet sparkling. 

She wore a gown of white brocade, cut low on 
the bosom and laced across the muslin shift with 
a pink cord ; the skirt was embroidered with little 
wreaths of blue roses ; the petticoat glimmered 
with gold thread. 

The candles were lit. 

Near her stood a handsome creature, Annette 
von Arlestein, full of sparkle and daring, in a violet 
gown ; she held a blue quilted cloak. On the peach- 
coloured lining the candle light flickered up and 
down. 

They were both listening . . . waiting. . . . 

" Then you put the cloak on me," said the 
Princess, *' and we thought we were so safe — he 
being away — and I went downstairs." 

Madame von Arlestein saw it — the lovely 
290 



THE PRISONER 

figure muffled in the dark cloak, creeping down the 
wide, dark stajrs, while she stood at the head 
with a candle, ready to put her hand over it at the 
slightest sound. 

'* Then you followed, Annette, to keep watch. 
I was a fool to go, but he had to leave soon, and I 
was mad to see him." 

" And the Elector was coming home the next 
day," added the old woman. 

Another scene rose before them : the vast 
dark kitchens beneath the dining-hall that opened 
on to the back entrance to the palace. 

This room was underground, but was lit by the 
perpetual fire that burnt in the huge grate. 

And then, to the memory of both, came the 
most tragic figure in the tragedy. In the glow of 
the great fire stood a young man, Philip von 
Konigsmarck, one of a wild and unfortunate 
family ; his brother Charles and his sister Aurora 
were sadly known to fame, but neither had a fate 
so dark as his. . . . Wind and rain increased in 
violence and swept and howled round the towers of 
Schloss Ahlden and beat in at the draughty window 
of the Princess's bedroom. 

She put her hands over her eyes ; memory was 
becoming so strong that she felt herself back in 
that moment she had not talked of for thirty-two 
years. 

" The kitchen was very large," she said, " and 
he stood waiting for me. Do you remember him, 
Annette ? " 

" Hen Jesus ! " muttered the old woman. 
291 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" He had on a great coat — light — and black satms 
under it and high soft boots and a little useless 
sword with a steel tassle — and a steinkirk cravat. 
They were fashionable that year, pulled through 
the buttonhole of the waistcoat " 

The Princess did not move her hand from her 
eyes ; she saw all these details. She saw more ; 
she saw the young Swede's passionate face, his 
deep blue eyes, the cluster of his blonde hair on 
his brow. 

" You stood at the door," she said, " and we 
both forgot you, and then " 

Annette remembered. 

The bright young beauty had gone straight to 
her lover's arms, and without a word they had 
kissed. 

Then he had drawn her to the settle, and she 
had sat beside him, loosening her cloak, and on 
her throat, her shoulders, her arms he had kissed 
her again. 

And presently he had gone on his knees and 
kissed her gown and her cloak and her hands. 

The while they never spoke a word, and the 
Countess von Arlestein watched by the big door. 

'' You did not hear them come," said the 
Princess, dropping her hand from her eyes. 

''No," answered the old woman. " The first 
I knew of them was when the door opened " 

They could both see that too, in their memory — 
the door opening on Prince Georg, whose pale eyes 
saw the Electress in the arms of Philip von Konigs- 
marck while his lips rested on her brow. 

292 



I 



THE PRISONER 

A woman had betrayed them : a jealous 
woman enamoured of the young Count had brought 
the Elector back a day before he was due and sent 
him here to the kitchens, which the spy had dis- 
covered was the meeting-place. 

Sophia Dorothea remembered how she had lifted 
her head from her lover's shoulder to see her husband 
standing within the door, four officers behind him 
and a fifth holding Madame von Arlestein. 

" I am glad I kissed him again," she muttered. 

" The fireHght was full in the room — like this," 
said the old woman. Her blurred eyes gleamed 
madly ; she seemed inspired by her memories. 
She got to her feet, and the embroideries fell to 
the hearth. " He fought for you — with his silly 
little court sword — but he was one to four, all 
well armed " 

*' The Elector held my wrists," said the 
Princess, " and I had never known he was so 
strong. ... I struggled ; Mein Gott, how fiercely ! 
but I could not shake his hands." 

" They had me against the wall with a bare 
blade at my breast, and I never moved," added 
the Countess. '' They had him down — then she 
came in, the spy, the traitress. ' Eh, Konigs- 
marck,' she said (how she had always hated you !), 
and she set her heel on his mouth as he writhed " 

" And I cursed her," whispered Sophia Dorothea, 
" and I cursed him and the children I had borne 
him " 

" Ay, you cursed ; but they picked him up 

and " 

293 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" Stop ! " shrieked the Princess. " Have I not 
lived with that all these years ? He was dead." 

" I hope he was dead," said the Countess ; 
" but the Elector hoped he was alive when the oven 
door was shut. AVhat did she say ? * This is not 
the couch my lord looked for to-night. Your 
oven takes dainty meat, Serenity ! ' " 

*' I bit his thumb to the bone," answered the 
Princess, clutching the edge of the mantelshelf. 
" Oh, Jesus, Jesus ! " 

"Why should the High God hear you?" 
sneered the old woman. 

" I have lain awake at night remembering that 
I hurt him. He cried out under his breath, and 
there was blood on his lace " 

" And he struck you in the face as the others 
stepped back from the fire and gave you a vile 
name " 

*' It was the last word he ever spoke to me." 

*' Aye," muttered the Countess, ** we were 
dragged upstairs and cast into a coach, and no one 
there ever saw us again nor spoke our names." 

'* They drove us through the night to Schloss 
Ahlden . . . thirty- two years ago." 

The Princess paced up and down the hearth. 

" I have thought of so many things — if he would 
have been different, if he had ever loved me — it was 
the hate of fourteen years vented then — if Phihp 
von Konigsmarck cursed me when he saw he was 
trapped." 

She drew a deep breath and put her pallid 
fingers to her pallid face. 

294 



THE PRISONER 
I kissed him again," she said, " when all was 



over 

With a fumbling gesture Madame von Arlestein 
groped for her sewing. " Why do we rip up this ? " 
she asked. 

" I have never been kissed since," added Sophia 
Dorothea, unheeding. 

The Countess pointed a skinny finger at the 
clock. 

" We have never been so late before. Get to 
your bed. Highness." 

" Not to-night — ^never since by man, woman 
nor child — stay with me to-night." 

" Why should I stay ? I want my sleep." 

" Who could sleep to-night ? Hark at the 
rain." 

She moved to the upright press in the corner 
and opened the doors, showing a gulf of shadow. 

As she stood there with one hand on either 
wing of the door, she looked like one peering with 
calmly curious eyes beyond the portals of the 
tomb. 

" Why did we recall it all to-night ? " whimpered 
Madame von Arlestein. " I have lost my needle 
and the thread is entangled." 

She pulled discontentedly at her sewing. 

Sophia Dorothea stepped into the press and 
sought among the clothes. 

" What are you doing ? " asked Madame von 
Arlestein peevishly. 

The Princess stepped out of the press with a 
dress across her arm. 

295 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

A dress of faded white brocade embroidered 
with wreaths of blue roses and a petticoat gleam- 
ing dully with tarnished gold thread. 

" Der Hen Jesus ! " cried the Countess. 

The Princess closed the press ; then she threw 
off her gown and stood a wraith-like figure in her 
white shift. 

With a ghastly look she put on the brocade, 
which rustled drearily as if it groaned at being 
drawn from its tomb. She laced it across the 
bosom with the pink cord, she spread out the 
skirts, she shook the yellow lace into place. 

With a steady step she crossed the room to the 
bed. 

" In the fireHght, in the firehght, like this, eh, 
Annette 1 " 

" What has happened to you ? " quavered the 
old woman. 

" I do not know," answered the Princess. " I 
feel strange to-night, almost as if hope had come 
once more ; almost as if I should never see the 
flats and the road and the Aller again ; almost as 
if I should never count the plovers again nor drive 
three miles forth, three miles back along the 
Hayden road ; almost as if PhiHp von Konigsmarck 
were near." 

" It is the wind," said the Countess. 

The storm wailed and shuddered without, and 
splash, splash fell the rain from the leads. 

" It brings the ghosts," she added. She peered 
at the clock. " Mein Gott ! It is—twenty minutes 
after one. You should be in bed," she added, 

29G 



THE PRISONER 

" Do you think I have ever slept at the hour 
of one to two any night of all the long nights 
here ? " answered Sophia Dorothea. " But this 
is the first time I have passed it in this dress — in 
the firelight." 

" There was a great clock in the corner," said 
Madame von Arlestein in her indistinct, failing 
voice, " and when they shut him in it was just 
striking two." 

" Do you think," asked the Princess violently, 
" that I did not hear it ? " 

She came again to the hearth, moving with the 
rigidity of age ; the brocade hung loosely on her 
hollowed form, showing how the soft flesh that 
had once filled it out had shrunk and withered. 

" What a life mine has been," she said, standing 
as if she Hstened to the wind ; " that one night 
and thirty-two years to think over it. For I have 
never been able to think of anything else, Annette." 

" Twenty minutes after one," mumbled the 
Countess ; " that was the time you opened the 
door and stepped into the kitchen " 

The Princess put her hand to her bosom. 

" Annette, Annette, are there no spells to con- 
jure him back ? But if he came he would not 
know us — two old women ! " 

" Get to bed," answered the Countess von 
Arlestein. " I am tired." 

" Go then — ^leave me," said her mistress. 

The old woman took one of the candles from 
the mantelpiece ; her hand shook so that the wax 
ran down the stick and over her fingers. 

297 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" One word," the Princess turned commanding 
eyes on her. " If I should die first, Annette, you 
will never let them know the truth." 

" I have forgotten the truth," returned the 
other with something of a sneer. 

" No — you know it — you and I only. Guilty, 
they say ; but some say, perhaps my son says, 
innocent. Let it remain unsolved." 

" Whatever I said would not be believed now, 
and I am older than you ; I shall die first. Oh, 
content you. Serenity, I shall not speak." 

She moved slowly, a bunchy black figm-e, 
towards the door, which she pulled open on the 
black corridor. 

Holding aloft her candle, she peered into this 
darkness. 

'' It is so late ; the lights are out," she 
quavered, " and I am afraid of the ghosts in 
the passages." 

" If lie thought in his heart that I might be 
innocent, it would trouble him on the day of his 
death, I think," said the Princess. She seated 
herself in the worn chair. " I feel very cold," 
she added. 

Madame von Arlestein turned back into the 
room and let the door swing to behind her. 

" My eyes dazzle with the firelight," said 
Sophia Dorothea. " Something is going to happen 
— at last." 

*' It was speaking of the past," answered the 
Countess. " Why did we when we had been silent 
so long ? " 

298 



THE PRISONER 

" I have described a circle," murmured the 
Princess, ** and I am back again to that night." 

" You are ill. I will call some one " 

" No," said her mistress in a terrible voice. 
" Call no one." 

The Countess replaced the candle on the 
mantelshelf." 

" Will you pray ? " 

" Why should I pray ? My prayers were 
exhausted long ago." 

Her head drooped to one side. 

" Get to your bed," she added. " Leave me 
here. The fire is falling out, and when it is dead I 
will go to bed. But now I want to keep watch." 

" Keep watch ? " 

" I am waiting." 

The storm was subsiding ; the casements 
rattled sHghtly and mournfully and the rain 
splashed with a more gentle violence against the 
panes. 

The firelight glimmered along the stif! folds 
of the white brocade and sparkled in the tarnished 
gold threads of the petticoat. Sophia Dorothea, 
gaunt and white, was flushed by this warm glow 
that was growing fainter and dying as the logs 
broke and fell into ashes. 

For some minutes she sat so ; then she looked 
up at the old woman leaning over her. 

" Remember," she said, " never tell." 

Utter silence again, save for the mutter of the 
departing wind and the patter of the ceasing 
rain. 

299 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

" She is ill," muttered Madame von Arlestein, 
aud hobbled to the door. 

She clapped her hands and cried out for help 
in a feeble voice that fell uselessly, unheard, into 
the dark passages of Schloss Ahlden. 

Then came a sound that silenced her, the clock 
striking two. 

" Ach, Gott in Himmel ! " she muttered, cold 
with fright. "I heard that oven door closing 
again " 

She hurried back to her mistress, the clear 
clang of iron still in her ears. 

Sophia Dorothea lay back in her chair ; her 
face was tilted upwards ; she looked as fresh, as 
beautiful, as young as on that night thirty-two 
years ago. There seemed no white in her hair 
and her limbs filled triumphantly the rich brocade. 

" I am getting bhnd," said Annette von Arle- 
stein, " and this cursed firelight — but you look as 

you looked then " She peered closer and gave 

a cracked scream. 

It was a corpse she stared at ; Sophia Dorothea 
had gone. 



300 



I 



THE YELLOW INTAGLIO 

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola 

"D. M. c. 

Johannes jacet hie Mirandula caetera morut 
Et Tagus et Ganges forsan et Antipodes 
Ob. an. sal. McLXXXIII. vix. an. XXXII. 

Hieronimus Beninienius ne disiunetus post mortem locus orsa 
separet quor animas 

In vita coniunxit amor hao humo 
supposita ponu curarit 

Ob. an. M.D.XXXXII. vix. an. Ixxxix Mens, vi." 

Tablet to Giovanni Pico della Mirandola in the Church of St. 
Mark, Florence. 

Giovanni Pico, Conte della Mirandola, sat at the 
window of his apartment ; the midday glow of a 
gentle winter sun was on his face ; against the 
straight pink-toned marble front of the Palazzo 
opposite three dark pines rose and flmig their 
long shadows up the street. The November sky 
was clear and cold in colour — the blue of chilly 
water. 

Below in the street was silence, and in the 
chamber with the dull terra-cotta walls and sand- 
stone floor was silence too. 

Giovanni Pico was ill of slow fever that had 
long sucked his strength. He sat in a pohshed 
chair with gilt on it, and rested his long white hands 

301 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

on the sides of it ; he wore a straight robe of soft 
red from his ears to his ankles ; his sleeves were 
tight, and of gold net over orange velvet, and fell 
in embroidered points to his finger tips. 

Round the high, close collar of his gown was 
a fine chain of silver and amber beads, which, 
passing several times round his throat, fell to 
his waist. 

His hair, which was smooth and thick and fair, 
was parted in the middle and combed either side 
of his face ; it fell in large curls on his breast and 
was finely scented. His countenance was sweet 
and good and lovely, the gray eyes large and 
gentle, the lips calm and sweetly curved. Ati 
present he was very pale, and there was a stillnessj 
in his expression and a motionlessness in his atti-J 
tude that made his head and bust look like a carving 
in tinted alabaster. 

The chamber was simple but beautiful. A 
low bed covered with silk draperies stood in one 
corner and near it was a table bearing costly books ; 
and a silver lamp. i 

On a dark cabinet stood a little broken figure 
of Tanagra, showing a dancing woman with a full 
robe held out ; near her was an elusive glass of 
blue colour on a milk-white stem, Hke a bubble 
trembling to disperse. Above the bed hung a 
black crucifix: and under it a red light burned with 
a quivering flame. 

A scent of sandal-wood, nard and spikenard, 
was in the chamber ; stirred occasionally by the 
breeze that whispered over Florence and entered 

S02 



THE YELLOW INTAGLIO 

the open window, this perfume strengthened and 
was wafted out into the street. 

The sick man never moved as the hours went 
by ; save that his eyes were opened and fixed 
with an enigmatic look on the quiet street below, 
he might have been asleep. 

This young man, who sat alone gazing at 
Florence this November midday was one of the 
most famous people in Italy. The " Phoenix of 
Genius," they called him, and he had early been 
renowned for his precocious learning, his vast 
industry, his beauty and his noble nature. To 
all his qualities his princely rank gave lustre ; 
he had been one of the most intimate friends of 
Lorenzo il Magnifico, and there was no one who 
could excel the brilHance of his reputation. As a 
prince who preferred letters to arms and distinc- 
tion in the arts to any other ambition, he was 
unique ; no man could ever have been more 
courted and praised and extolled than this man 
had been. 

But to-day he was forgotten. 

For it was the day fixed for the entry of the 
King of France into Florence, and though he came 
under the pretence of peace and an invitation to 
a treaty, he came stained with Italian blood and 
in the guise of a conqueror. And the Conte della 
Mirandola had been among the brightest in the 
bright rule of the resplendent Medici. Giovanni 
Pico had been at the death-bed of the great Lorenzo, 
who had spoken almost his last words to the gentle 
youth who had heard the Friar he had brought to 

303 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

Florence, Fra Girolamo, refuse the haughty ruler 
absolution unless he gave Florence her liberty. 

And Lorenzo had turned his face to the wall and 
refused, and died with his sins on his head, and 
now his sons were eating the bread of charity in 
Eome, and Fra Girolamo was the greatest man in 
Florence, and Charles of France was entering the 
proud city at the twenty-first hour to-day. 

Giovanni Pico thought of these things and of 
his dead friend, Lorenzo dei Medici ; he believed 
that it was better for that Prince to have died, 
in pain of soul, than to have lived to see Florence 
to-day, changed indeed as it was since the days of 
his rule. 

The Conte della Mirandola was changed also. 
It would have amazed Lorenzo to know that his 
most brilliant courtier was yearning for the plain 
habit of the brotherhood of St. Mark, and that the 
most learned and splendid noble in Florence 
wished to leave the world and follow Fra Girolamo 
Savonarola the steep way to Heaven. 

But so it was with Giovanni. For some years 
past the eloquence of the Friar had wrought 
much with him ; and lately, as the fierce pohtics 
of Italy sifted and clashed — as all the things he 
had known and loved fell and were broken — 
Giovanni Pico turned, as so many of the Florentines, 
to the shelter ofiered by the brotherhood of St. 
Mark. 

Now, as he gazed down into the empty street, 
he wished that he had not so long delayed ; he 
wished that he was, even now, in the dark robe 

304 



THE YELLOW INTAGLIO 

of a brother of St. Mark, lying in his cell, face down- 
wards, before the crucifii, praying for mercy for 
his soul and for those long years he had filled 
with worldly learning and in following the vain 
shadows of heathen philosophy. 

He moved his fair head and sighed and lifted 
his right hand vaguely and looked at it. On the 
second finger was a yellow intaglio of a bull wreathed 
with flowers. It gave him pleasure even now in 
the midst of his thoughts of God. He watched the 
liquid Hght sHp in and out of it in gUnts of amber 
and gold, and in looking at the exquisite workman- 
ship and reflecting that there was not such another 
in the world, he forgot the convent of St. Mark 
in his joy in the heathen jewel. 

The red hanging was lifted from the doorway 
and a dark figure entered — a monk in a russet 
gown, with a thin face and ardent eyes. 

The young Prince looked up. 

" Fra Girolamo ! " 

Savonarola approached him, looked at him 
with some tenderness in his harsh features. 

" Why are you at the window ? " he asked. 

Giovanni Pico smiled in a melancholy manner. 
" I wish to see the French," he answered. " Seated 
here I can view them, where the street ends, 
passing- 



He raised his pure face. 

" On such a day as this can you find time for 
me ? " he murmured. 

Fra Girolamo's eyes were flaming and troubled 
with many thoughts. 

305 X 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 1 

" It was you who persuaded the Medici to 
summon me to Florence," he said. "But for 
you I should never have been here, doing what I 
can to save the city. Judge, then, if I cannot 
find time to come and watch with you a little w^hen 
you are sick." 

" So sick ! " smiled Giovanni. " I feel as if 
I was very old and had outlived all that I ever 
loved. What are my attainments now, or the 
praises I garnered? Where is the Prince who 
flattered me and the courtiers who bowed down 1 
Gone, leaving a great emptiness; and you are 
the one person now who can bring me peace." 

" Will you follow the Lord 1 " asked Fra 
Girolamo quickly. 

"I will. I will leave the world; though I 
am ' lighter than vanity,' I have the strength to 
do that. I will be one of your humble friars. 
Hark, what was that % " 

A sound of trumpets quivered in the gentle 
stiUness, and the sick man leant forward, gripping 
the arms of his chair. 

" The French," said Savonarola, and stepped 
out on to the balcony. " We have no fear of them ; 
they come to treat with the Republic, not to conquer 
her, and Capponi is stronger than King Charles." 

He might have added that he was himself 
stronger than either, and that when he had 
walked into the French camp to warn the King 
of the Lord's wrath if he behaved dishonourably 
to Florence that monarch had cowered before him. 

Still, the fact was that King Charles had come 
306 



THE YELLOW INTAGLIO 

as a conqueror into Italy, and that a foreign army 
was entering Florence, and this fact rankled in 
the mind of both Dominican and noble. 

Giovanni Pico rang the silver handbell on the 
table near him, and two pages came from the next 
apartment. The Prince bade them lift him up 
and carry him out on to the balcony, which was 
done ; and he hung weak as a woman between 
them, yet managed with their help to reach the 
balcony, and supported against the stone balustrade 
to stand feebly in the sunshine. 

At the end of the street, a couple of houses 
away, was a good view of the Ponte Vecchio 
which spanned the Arno, and was to-day gaily 
decorated with flags and triumphal arches. 

A great crowd of people had already assembled, 
and were running to and fro, shouting and laugh- 
ing and hustling against one another ; some had 
already overflowed into this side-street, which a 
while before had been so quiet, while at every 
window heads appeared and figures began to show 
on the roofs. Most of the houses were hung with 
arras and flags. 

" We have no decoration," said Pico della 
Mirandola. 

Savonarola gave him a quick look, then passed 
into the chamber ; he seemed hke a man exalted 
in his soul. 

But the friend of Lorenzo dei Medici remained 
on the balcony, supported by his pages and leaning 
on the stone that was pale gold in the winter sun. 

A huge noise encroached on the lesser noises of 
307 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

the crowd— a noise like the din of an enormous 
fair, beating of drums, blowing pipes, and the shriek 
of trumpets, the clatter of arms and the sound of 
horses' hoofs and horses' harness as they jostled 
together. 

A varie-coloured throng came jostling over the 
bridge ; the foremost, before whom a little space 
was with some difficulty cleared, was mounted on 
a tall and handsome charger, over which a gorgeous 
baldaquin was upheld. 

Giovanni noticed that this man was riding with 
his lance levelled— the sign of a conqueror ; and 
as he hesitated, not knowing' which way to turn, 
the Florentine had a good view of his person, 
which was extraordinarily misshapen. 

He wore black velvet, and sat hunched together 
on the saddle, his body being prodigiously small, 
his legs long and twisted, his feet huge and deformed. 
A rich and cumbersome mantle of cloth of gold hung 
from his shoulders, emphasizing the meanness of 
his presence ; his head was huge and lolled on his 
chest; his mouth was gaping; his hair so pale 
as to be almost white. This was all Giovanni 
could see of his face before a footman seized his 
bridle and he was guided out of sight. 

Giovanni knew this horseman for the King of 
France. He was followed by four big drums 
played at the double, and two pipes ; and close 
behind him, endeavouring to regain their places 
at his side, which they had lost in the jostle of the 
turning, came the two Cardinals of St. Piero in 
Vincoli St. Malo, and at a short distance some 

308 



THE YELLOW INTAGLIO 

French Marshals, who were closely followed by 
the Royal bodyguard of bowmen ; then some 
French knights on foot and the Swiss vanguard— 
the finest infantry in Europe, splendid in many 
colours, bearing burnished street-halberds and dis- 
tinguished by the waving plumes on the helmets of 
the officers. 

After them came the agile, small, Gascon 
Infantry, and then the gorgeous Cavalry, the finest 
knights among the French aristocracy, glittermg 
in their gold and silver armour, their brocade 
mantles, their chains of gold and sparkHng jewels. 

Above their heads floated the silk pennons they 
carried, while the velvet banners clung round their 
poles in the breezeless air. 

Tall and fierce-looking Scotch archers armed 
with terrible and heavy weapons came after these. 

The French Artillery had gone on to Rome by 
another route, and there were no guns with the 
army ; but their numbers, their strange attire 
and stranger weapons, the richness of their appoint- 
ments, the discipUne they used in their marching, 
made them a new and terrifying spectacle to a 
city that only knew mercenaries. 

The knights, soldiers, and archers were still 
pouring over the bridge when Giovanni whispered 
to his pages to help him back to his chair. 

He sank into it in his old attitude— his hands 
on the arms, his head resting against the back ; 
only now his eyes were closed, and the steady 
sound of the passing army was in his ears. 

Girolamo Savonarola stood in the corner of 
309 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

the chamber ; he also was listening to the sounds 
of the French entering Florence, and though he 
stood very still, with his hands on his breast, there 
was something triumphant in his face. 

" Fra Girolamo," said Giovanni under his 
breath, " if I — should not live to enter your order, 
will you bury me in the habit of it ? " 

The Friar made no answer to this ; he moved 
nearer the window and remarked, ** Angelo Poli- 
ziano died this morning." 

" Ah ! " A half -breath parted the young man's 
full, pale Ups, and a deeper look of sadness troubled 
the smooth calm of his gentle features. Poliziano 
was a name nearly as brilliant as his own, a man 
who had also been present at il Magnifico's death- 
bed. It seemed as if all the friends of the old 
dynasty were following that dynasty's fate. 

" No one to-day will remember Pohziano/' 
said Giovanni, following out his thoughts ; " and 
no one would remember Pico — if I were to die 
to-day." He added instantly, turning his head 
towards the Friar, " Save only you, Fra Girolamo." 

Savonarola approached his chair and looked 
down at him with deep, sparkHng eyes. 

*' Are you very ill? " he asked earnestly. 

The young Prince smiled sweetly up at him. 

" I am dying," he said. 

Fra Girolamo was startled ; he lifted his right 
hand and let it fall on his heart. 

" I received the viaticum this morning," said 
Pico della Mirandola. ** I have been surprised by 
death . . . too soon. ... I would have died a 

310 



THE YELLOW INTAGLIO 

Friar, and I would have died before I heard yonder 
army crossing the Arno." 

Savonarola still did not speak ; his dark face 
was stained by a dusky flush of pain. He loved 
this beautiful young man who was so devoted 
and humble a follower of his doctrines — this prince 
whom neither great birth, great gifts, great fortune 
nor great praise had spoiled, and he hoped that he 
would not die. It was a marvellous thing if he, 
broken and ill, was to be spared and this youth 
to be taken in the flower of his days. 

" Oh, what have I done with my life ! " 
whispered Giovanni, and the tears sparkled in 
his long clear eyes. 

'' Are you at peace ? " asked the Friar abruptly. 

" Nay, not quite at peace, for I love the things 
of this world and cannot wholly forget them, even 
while every breath I draw brings me nearer the 
Judgment of God." 

The Friar looked at him earnestly, 

" Why should you die, Giovanni ? I think you 
will live." 

" No ; death entered my chamber this morning 
and is here now, waiting his time." 

" Should I bring your friends or your 
physician ? " 

" Let me die alone," answered Giovanni. " I 
have been too much in crowds all my life." 

" You have no great sins to answer for," re- 
turned the Friar. " You need not be afraid to 
appear before God, Conte." 

" I am not afraid," replied the young man 

311 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

faintly. " But I am very loth to leave the world, 
and that troubles me." 

A light of enthusiasm and joy sprang into the 
Friar's eyes. He clasped his thin, nervous hands 
convulsively together. 

" Could I but have brought you within the 
walls of St. Mark's — into that great peace where 
the spirit of St. Antonine still dwells, where it is 
indeed Hke Heaven for the great company of 
angels painted by Fra Beato Angelico that beam 
from the walls ! " 

" Alas ! " said the Conte della Mirandola ; 
'' such joy is not for me ! " 

Clouds had crept over the perfect blue ; faint 
silver veils they were, and a pale rain descended 
and a low wind rose, stirring the boughs of the 
cypresses and the arras hanging before the houses. 

Still could be heard the shouting, the tramp, 
the jostle of arms, the running to and fro, the tap 
of the drums, the whistle of the pipes. 

And Pico della Mirandola could not close his 
ears to these sounds ; he was thinking more of 
Florence than of God, and because of this the 
tears ran down his cheeks. 

The Friar seemed to guess his thoughts. 

" Florence is in God's hands, and I am his 
instrument to preserve her people." 

Giovanni took his eyes from the rain and the 
cypresses and the soft grey sky, and looked at the 
Friar. 

" Can you preserve Florence against a Borgia 
Pope and a French Conqueror ? " he whispered. 

312 



THE YELLOW INTAGLIO 

"As God's lieutenant, I can," said Fra Giro- 
lamo in a firm and splendid voice. 
Giovanni closed his eyes. 
" I must forget Florence," he answered. " I 
must forget the world." 

He drew the yellow intagho from his finger 
and, still with his eyes closed, dropped it on the 
floor ; it rolled away against the wall. 

With slow movements he unwound the chain 
from his neck and cast that down too. 
Then he opened his eyes. 
" Bury me in your holy and humble habit," 
he asked. " I have longed to wear it in life, 
and in death maybe I might be thought not un- 
worthy—and lay me in St. Mark's Church." 

"Giovanni, both these things will I do— yet 
I still think that you will not die." 

The Prince shook his head and called one of 
his pages, who came with his eyes red from weeping 
for this sickness of his master. 

And Giovanni bade the boy take away the 
figure of Tanagra and all the heathen vanities of 
the room and bring him the crucifix above the bed. 
Sadly the youth obeyed, and when he brought 
the crucifix Giovanni clasped it gladly in his two 
slim white hands and pressed it to his heart, mur- 
muring some prayers in his throat. 

The rain drifted in through the open window, 
a shght, sweet spray, and the perfumes of the 
chamber were lost in the freshness of it. Giovanni 
gazed at the lightly blowing clouds and the dark 
tops of the cypresses stirring against them, and he 

313 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

tliouglit that these trees were like souls — rooted 
to the earth, yet striving to be free, bending and 
moaning in their efforts heavenwards. 

" Will you not rest in your bed ? " asked Fra 
Girolamo, for he saw a slow pallor coming over 
the young man's face. 

" No," said Giovanni ; '' but out of your great 
goodness, pray for me now." 

And Savonarola knelt down and began to 
recite the penitential psalms in a low but strong 
voice. 

And Giovanni Pico listened, but there was a 
languor and a weakness in his heart and in his 
mind, and he began to think of spring flowers, 
white and scented ; of long galleries, cool with 
shade, looking into square courtyards full of 
orange trees with a fountain in the centre ; of 
heathen statues, broken and white against a 
background of ilax and laurel ; of the sea heated 
by the sun and sparkling with violet and blue ; 
of engraved gems, yellow, tawny and orange ; of 
alabaster heads of women, tinted faintly on the 
cheeks and lips and gilded in the hair-net. And 
none of these things were of Heaven, yet they 
occupied the whole of Giovanni Pico's thoughts, 
and he forgot the crucifix in his slack hands ; he 
forgot the Friar reciting the psalms ; he forgot 
the army passing without, and his spirit turned 
backwards to the delights of dead springs and 
summers. 

The Friar continued praying. 

Giovanni closed his eyes ; he thought that he 
3i4 



THE YELLOW INTAGLIO 

was walking by a fountain round which httle close 
violets grew beneath their leaves, and that a woman 
in a long green gown was plucking these violets 
and giving them to him till his hands were over- 
full, and the little flowers fell down in a shower 
on the surface of the water of the fountain and 
floated there above the reflection of the blue sky ; 
and he stretched out his hands to regain them, 
and as he did so he noticed that his hands were 
bare, and with a cry he started up, crying, " Where 
is my intaglio ring ? " And the crucifix fell to 
the floor. 

Fra Girolamo picked up the holy symbol, and 
his glance was red with bitter fire. 

" What are your thoughts in this hour ? " he 
cried. " Do you still dream of the lusts and 
pleasures of the world ? " 

Giovanni bent his head and wept. 

" Speak to me of God," he whispered. " I 
am a great sinner." 

Savonarola placed the crucifix again in his 
hands, and now he grasped it so hard that the 
sharp edges of it entered his flesh, and at the pain 
he groaned, and was glad, for he felt his mind 
quickened with thoughts of God. Resolutely he 
drove all soft and beautiful images from him — all 
memories, all philosophies and learning, and they 
faded like snow before fire in front of the awful 
visage of God that began to rise slowly and terribly 
before Giovanni Pico. 

The world turned the colour of dark smoke, 
and One with a long spear of living flame 

315 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

strode across the Heavens calling Judgment, 
and there was a drum beating and a trumpet 
calling. 

He thought that he heard the voice of Lorenzo 
whispering in Hell, and he tried to lift his head to 
look for his friend, but it was so heavy that it 
would not move, and he cried out — 

" There is a great change in him," said Fra 
Girolamo, rising from his knees. " Surely he is 
dying." 

The cypress trees shook in the veil of the rain 
and the low clouds sailed more swiftly above the 
pink-fronted houses. Steadily the French knights 
went past the street, and the chamber was full 
of the sound of their armour and horses ; but 
Giovanni Pico was in darkness, labouring up 
to God. 

He rose up from his chair and stood erect a 
moment, the pale Hght of the fading afternoon 
clear on his blood-red gown and his fair locks 
and the dark crucifix he held, as with blind eyes 
he stared across the room. 

" Death is terrible," he said. He fell on his 
knees. " Friar, death is terrible." He fell on 
his face. " Death is very terrible." 

They raised him up and laid him on his bed in 
the shadow, and as they lifted him his crimson 
gown fell apart and showed his striped hose and 
his pearl embroidered garters and the cross-work 
of jewels on his shoes ; and his bed was very rich 
and lovely and carved with little dancing figures 
of fauns ; and Fra Girolamo was grieved that he 

316 



THE YELLOW INTAGLIO 

should die amid all this vanity, and prayed heartily 
to the Lord to forgive it. Then he bethought him 
that the Prince had wished to die in the habit of 
his own order, and feeling assured that he was 
yet many hom's off death, he bid the pages 
watch by their master and left them to go him- 
seK to the convent of St. Mark to fetch a friar's 
robe. 

Giovanni Pico lay very still ; his face was white 
and fallen and his eyes closed. The two boys 
looked at him and whispered together ; they 
greatly loved their master, and they did not love, 
though they feared, Fra Girolamo. 

One of them tip-toed out of the room and 
brought back the figure of Tanagra ; the other 
took from a press a lustre dish of peaches and late 
white roses opening on to golden hearts, and took 
them to his master, who was muttering prayers 
with a feeble voice. 

The boy held up the dish and said softly : " My 
noble lord, do not grieve so at what the Friar says, 
for surely Heaven is beautiful as Tuscany when 
the blossoms come out, and there is a pleasant 
company there seated on the grass and plaiting 
roses into crowns while God walks among them, 
very splendid and gentle." 

Giovanni opened his eyes and saw the flowers 
and fruit and smelt the rich perfume of them and 
faintly smiled ; then he saw the figure of Tanagra, 
and his smile deepened, and all the world rushed 
round him again. 

*' There is great comfort in these things," said 
317 



GOD'S PLAYTHINGS 

the second page ; " and wherefore should a Prince 
die like a poor Friar ? " 

He picked up the long chain Giovanni had 
flung down and brought it to the bed. 

** My ring," said the dying man : " the yellow 
intaglio " 

They found it where it had spun away against 
the wall, and tenderly brought it to him and 
slipped it on his finger, and he looked at it, 
still smiHng. 

Then one of them fetched a psalter, illuminated 
in colour and gold, with knobs of turkis on the 
cover, and put that in his right hand ; and the 
other brought a casket showing a painting of 
Venus and Adonis on the lid and opened it, 
and from it took long locks of fair and dark hair 
that had once belonged to all the women Giovanni 
Pico had loved. 

This casket he laid on the bed, and Giovanni 
looked at it ; and God receded very far away again. 

*' What are those bells ? " he asked. 

" King Charles is being received in the Duomo 
by the Signorie, my lord." 

Pico della Mirandola moved his pale lips 
slowly. 

" I hope Piero Capponi will know how to — • 
deal with — these French — I hope — Fra Girolamo 
will save Florence — I wish Lorenzo had lived " 

He lifted the yellow ring to his cheek and fell, 
as they thought, asleep. 

But when Fra Girolamo returned with the 
humble robe of a brother of St. Mark's, Pico della 

318 



THE YELLOW INTAGLIO 

Mirandola was dead amid his vanities, with the rare 
intaglio on his finger. 

And Savonarola used no word of reproach, but 
permitted him to be buried in the friar's habit 
and in the Church of St. Mark. 



THE END 



pKIKTED BT WILLIAM CLOWES ASD SDKS, LIMITED, LONDOK AND BECCLES.